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Month: January 2017

What Do You Know About That?: The Myth of Writing What You Know

If writers only write what they know, the world, and their writing, will be very boring spaces. Well, with a few exceptions.

Like many writers, I had a series of “careers” and a diverse education before I figured out a way to write for a living. I’ve described before how I do other things than just writing: editing, formatting, and other tasks, most of them relating to publishing. They all have one thing in common: writing about them is boring except to other writers.

So as an author, what do you write about? I mean, they say write what you know, but in many ways what I know sucks. There are only so many stories of fast food workers, Fed Ex delivery drivers, and ski bums that people can stand, right?

When we say “write what you know” we don’t mean your job, past occupations, and the criminal activities you may or may not have participated in in college. That is what research is for, and if you are not a writer you will often find them to be quite knowledgeable on several topics if you engage them in conversation.

This is because we, as writers, write what we get to know. We research, study, and become unqualified experts on any number of topics to make our stories richer. Therefore, from time to time, we get it wrong in our stories. Many of us are not police officers, doctors, lawyers, or other professions we write about. We’ve just researched them.

But there are things we can write about that we do know, and that is what we mean when we say “write what you know.”

Fear

If anyone is familiar with fear, it is a writer, regardless of how sheltered the rest of their life might have been. For the most part, though, writers have endured fear in many areas of their lives.

Every time you sit down to look at a blank page, whether it is to write an article or blog post or to start that next story or novel, a writer experiences fear: fear that the words won’t come this time, or that someone will discover how poorly we write, or worse that no one will read our work at all.

This fear is something we can put into our stories and our characters. When they are afraid, we can describe it accurately, show it to our readers. To do so, we must be open and allow our own fear to show through.

This is tough: it means we are making ourselves vulnerable. It means that in every moment of fear in our work, our readers catch a glimpse of what is inside us, and that makes for great fiction.


Blue October, Fear [Explicit]

Love

If there is one thing artists do an astonishing job at, it is love. We also tend to love imperfectly, because we are flawed, and our attention is often drawn to things it should not be. It’s hard to walk through the day and not be distracted by something that is the next story idea, even just an odd creative spark.

However, when we love, we love with everything we are and are loyal to a fault. Sometimes that love is misunderstood because our loyalties are so divided. We are loyal to our craft and our stories, often even our characters. It does not mean we don’t have enough love for others too, it just means we struggle with the balance between the real world and the fantasy we live in.

Writers are often broken and dark, and our writing is where the darkness goes so we do not spread it to those around us. When we are not writing and creating, we are dangerous, hurtful people, the gods forgive us. When we create and channel that darkness, we love with a fierce passion, and take our place among the gods.

Can we write of this struggle to love? Of course we can, because every story is a love story, whether it is in the romance genre or not. Every story has love of something woven into it. To be effective, though, we must show this love to our readers: the pain of it, the struggle, and the triumph.

Darkness

Speaking of the darkness we release through our writing, we must understand that to make it effective, we must not fear showing it to our readers. This is the thing we know so well, yet is difficult to write about. It reveals something inside us we don’t always want the world to see.


I don’t care what genre you write in, there is at some point darkness in your story. The moment the love interests part in a fight over some silly little thing, the moment the husband dies and the woman has to move on, or the moment the murder kills or the monster appears.

The monster is us. Those that are most real contain elements of our darkest secrets, our hidden flaws, the secret desire to destroy that lives within us, shrouded in the shadows of our hearts.

We must provide this darkness a place to play, to live in the light so that we do not harm those around us.

Triumph

Our victories sometimes are small. That one publishing credit. The one book or article acceptance. The one moment when we feel validated as a writer. The time when our child is actually kind or shares a story of their own. The time when we actually do get the girl (or guy), the one who understands us to our very soul and supports us.

These are the triumphs we know. These are the feelings, the emotions, the joy we can infuse into our stories the moment our hero slays the dragon, gets the bad guy, gets the girl, or finally overcomes that one issue in his life.

We must, whenever we can, balance the darkness with triumph. We must impart to our readers the one thing that keeps us going: hope.

You know more than you think as a writer. But it is the things you know in your soul that matter the most. These are the things you must write about. Write what you know. Learn what you don’t.

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Digital Marketing for Authors: Infographics

Make no mistake, if you are an author, you are in the digital marketing field. You need to market your work to as many places as you can.

One of the ways we have discussed here to improve Google ranking is through creating backlinks to your site from other sites. Here is a guest post from James Franklin about the role of infographics in digital marketing.

You, as an author, can use your book covers to create infographics about your series, your characters, or other aspects of your work, and share them with other websites who might find them useful. This is a simple way to earn links back to your site without creating a bunch of content. Here’s James’ take on infographics from the perspective of a digital marketer. And hey, the infographic is about gaming monitors. What writer doesn’t want one of those to game on after a hard day of writing?

For all of those in the digital marketing field, you all know how much of a task it can be to build links up to other sites to improve Search Engine Optimization. Why are they important? Because links are the number one thing you need to rank. By building up multiple backlinks, a site will move up on search engines like Google.

This post is about my favorite format of content: Infographics. Why are they my favorite? Because it’s one of the simplest ways to get links. Infographics mean link building doesn’t require you to type content all day long until your fingers ache. I have been using infographic’s to get my clients some great domain authority. Here’s why it works. Links are the reason for content marketing. It isn’t to “tell Google we know what we are talking about.”. It’s to get links. Links is what helps rank websites at the top of the SERPs. Good links are earned by providing good content.

Most people think that websites are pleading for guest posts since it is “free content” but that isn’t the case. I can ensure you that any large website that is considered an “authority” has a large group of staff dedicated to its content. They have staff that plan, review, edit, and scan it. Even a “free” guest post goes through several sets of hands the website employs.

Why do infographic’s get more views and more social media shares than a standard blog post? It’s because website visitors are often looking for simple answers in visual form. They often skim articles. That is why formatting is so significant. It’s imperative to have something that while informative is also fun, colorful, and a provides the information the searcher is looking for.

This infographic created by The Gaming Monitor has clear headings, a bold and clear structure, great content and is a great example of the type of infographic which sites need to be using to improve links and SEO rankings.

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Guest Blogging: An Ultimate Guide for Writers

As a writer, you are encouraged by many to include blog tours as a part of your platform building and marketing strategy. Why? There are two really good reasons, but the second one is often lost on authors.

Building Your Audience

The first reason is that you are building your audience, introducing yourself to new readers, reviewers, and other bloggers. (You do have your own blog, right?) If not, there are many guides on how to get started blogging as a writer. Read them, follow the steps, and come back when you are done.

Why do you need your own blog? As you introduce yourself to readers, reviewers, and others you need to tell them where they can find you consistently. This does not just mean giving them your social media handles, though you should be sharing those too. At the minimum, you should be on Twitter and Facebook, but Instagram and Pinterest sometimes work well for writers. This is where you can share visuals like book covers, along with photos about you and your life.

Readers want to get to know you. You can put forth a persona if you wish, and are consistent. For instance, many people have the image that I drink Scotch all day, starting well before noon, and that I work in sweatpants and t-shirts. While this is not true, since I usually don’t start drinking until at least a little bit after noon, and most days I get dressed.

You can publicly portray whatever writing image you want, but readers want to know that image. They want to see pictures of you and your cat, and they like knowing your struggles, what you are working on next, where you are traveling, and more.

Digital wins over physical. You can use a bunch of methods to promote yourself and your work. Everything from business cards to posters, bookmarks, and even calendars and t-shirts. None of these things are a bad idea, in fact if you order them in bulk, you can save a ton of money. Not long ago, I ordered 6,000 business cards. It bears mentioning at this time of year that a number of these things are tax deductible (along with other expenses you incur as an author like book covers and writing courses and conferences).

But who are you going to give those things to, and how are you going to reach them? This is where your blog and website come in. This is where you keep them most informed. You can certainly do so through social media, but your website offers another opportunity: this is how you can inform your readers where to find (and buy) your work.

There are other methods to building your audience and getting visitors to your website which include email newsletter lists and of course, guest blogging.

Building Backlinks to Your Site

How Google Works. This is the part authors often miss. Your site ranks in Google according to how the search engine giant perceives it. It’s helpful at this point to understand how Google works: when you type in a search it does not search the web “live.” Instead, Google (and any other search engine) searches its own index of websites. That index is created by virtual “spiders” who go out and “crawl” websites. How often your site is updated in that index depends on how often your website is updated. Google is looking for updated information, as the goal if for it to provide the best, most relevant search for its users.

If the “spider” crawls your site, and it has not been updated in three days, it will come back and check three days later. If it has still not been updated, it will crawl it six days later, and so on. So if you post or make updates to your website once a month, that is how often Google will “crawl” your site.

If the “spider” comes back a month later and sees you have made four changes since it’s last visit, it will start to look at your site more frequently again. News sites like the New York Times and ABC can be crawled dozens of times a day, as they are updated as news breaks.

Backlinks. While frequent updates are important, equally important is how often (and how) other websites are linking to yours. First, if sites considered to be spam are linking to you on Google, it is possible that your site could be “de-indexed” or removed from the Google search index altogether. This is often called a penalty, or being penalized. This means that while someone searching your name might find your Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, but they won’t see your website at all.

This is not only disastrous because you have taken all the time and expense to build your site, but because recent studies have shown that 64% of your web traffic comes from organic search, or someone searching for your name or the topic of your website in Google. This means that you could potentially lose 6 out of 10 of the visitors to your website.

So be careful of deals on Fiverr and other sites where individuals or agencies offer to help your website rank by selling you a block of links. Building good backlinks takes time, and if you hire someone to do it, it will probably be expensive depending on the type of links you want, another blog post for another time.

Guest Blogging. Guest blogging is one of the best ways to do this, although you do have to be careful about what sites you guest post on. Most of the time, reputable companies like Writer Marketing Services offer blog tours, and vet the blogs you are posted on.

You can set up your own blog tours, but it does involve a huge time commitment to do outreach, follow up, and research each sites guidelines. However, even if you do blog tours, you should also attempt to write for other sites as well.

This is why you see writers on Huffington Post and other sites. Often they are writing about other subjects, maybe even what they do for work. I write a lot about content marketing, GIS, sports for Last Word on Sports, and even just fun topics for sites like Elite Daily. Why? Because it creates more authority for my site, and exposes me to an entirely different audience.

Building the authority of your site does not have to be about writing, but at least a part of it should be. If you are just blogging about your interests, it is possible the readers of those articles will not even know that you write fiction.

The links you build to your site should be relevant. They should have diverse anchor text (the text that points the reader to your site) but text that doesn’t just look natural, but is. There are a number of tools you can use that will provide you with information about the backlinks pointing to your site, including Moz and SEM Rush. Both have free trial periods, and Moz has a free version that allows limited searches and some free information. (also, if you want to learn more about SEO, search in general,and marketing strategies, you should follow their blog and Rand Fishkin, their founder and an all around fun and brilliant guy)

What to Write About

One of the number one arguments I hear from writers against guest blogging and blogging regularly on their own site is simply “What do I write about?” They seem to run out of topics pretty quickly. But I call foul.

Creativity You are creative. You need to apply that same creativity to your blog writing that you do to writing short stories and novels. You have hobbies, interests, and your books are about something, someone, and somewhere.

Most of the time, writers who say they have nothing to write about on their blog are scared to write the wrong thing. There are a ton of places to find new ideas to write about, but here are a few:

  • Write what readers will be interested in. Don’t just write about writing, but about things people comment on in their reviews of your books, the places, things, and people your books are about. Readers read them for a reason. Give them a reason to learn more.
  • Write about your life. People are fascinated by the writing life, where you get your ideas, and how and where you write. Don’t write about this all the time, but it is a place to start.
  • Share your thoughts. Don’t get overly political or religious, but it is okay to let readers of your blog know what you are feeling when it comes to current events, especially if they are related, even tangentially, to the subject of your books.

Think outside the box. You have things to say, and you certainly have enough to say for one blog post a week. I have met some of you, and you have much more to say than that. Write it down,and get some benefit from it.

Assignments Many times, blog owners will tell you what they want you to write about, or offer interview opportunities, or will put a call out for specific topics. Pay attention, answer those calls, and in short give the people what they want.

You can’t go wrong with a post a blog owner has asked for, or one you have pitched to them that they like. Sometimes you will even have posts that go farther than you imagined, and unexpectedly.

As an author, you should be guest blogging on various sites. It is one way to promote your work and make your writing more profitable. A big part of the dream as an author is for your work to be read. In order for it to be read, readers must discover it and have an easy way to purchase it.

It’s a lot of work to build your audience and find guest postings on various sites. But you should be building backlinks to your sites, and you do have things to write about. It is up to you to explore the world of guest posting, but it can be a real game changer for your work and your website.

Have questions? Want to know more? Comment below or contact me at [email protected].

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