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Writers and Marketing ~ Self-Promotion Without Pain

In this changing literary landscape, it is becoming the norm it is imperative that authors participate in their own marketing.

If you are not already doing so, the above statement is likely intimidating, frustrating, annoying, and perhaps a little humiliating. And understandably so. What with all the Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, who’sit, what’sit… It’s no wonder. To the uninitiated, the idea of marketing yourself and your writing is a world of new and confusing. I once overhead a writer complain, “I’d rather cut off my feet and run on stumps than learn all that (crap).”

Pretty much sums it up.

So how does one who is a master of words go about the promotion of self and work? There’s so much to learn. And who wants to learn? We want to write!!

Aha! And there’s your answer. Putting yourself out there is easier than you think.

WHERE DO I START?

Getting started online and promoting yourself is easy. Writing a book is hard. Look at it like any other project you’ve taken on in your lifetime. Think back to learning how to cook. You didn’t start out with four-course turkey dinners. Chances are, you scrambled an egg. Now you look at the Internet and think, “I can’t do that.” And no one is asking you to. We just want you to start with an egg.

In geek terms we’ll call that a blog.

FIRST, GET A BLOG

A ‘blog’ (so named because ‘Web Log’ is too long to type,) is nothing more than an online journal. Like keeping a diary, you can write in it every day, once or twice a week, or whenever the mood hits.

Unlike a diary, it is versatile, forgiving, and powerful. Versatile, because all of the work – outside of the actual writing – is done for you. Forgiving, because mistakes are easily corrected, your shortcomings in design and tech know-how are easily compensated. And powerful, because it has the potential to reach an audience beyond your current resources and imagination, in real-time (not in some projected point in the future), and in ways that the ‘blog’ platform has evolved into, beyond the expectations of those who developed them in the first place.

Start a blog. It’s easy. And it’s free. There are websites out there that host blogs. The two biggest are Blogger and WordPress. Romantic Shorts uses WordPress. There are others, but these are the easiest to start with. Blogger is easier to use for beginners, has plenty of fun ways to personalize your site, and will meet virtually all of your needs. WordPress is a little more involved behind the scenes and can be a little intimidating for beginners, but has a great help section and some terrific looking themes, and, I’ve found, better options for growth.

Log on to either of these sites: http://www.Blogger.com  or  http://www.Wordpress.com

Click the ‘Start a Blog’ button and follow the directions. All you need to register your blog is a valid email address. There are no catches.

Give some thought as to what you would like to call yourself. You will be asked to choose a Username. This can be different from your Blog Title, but cannot be changed so long as your blog is in use. It is also the name that will be used in your URL (the blog address visitors will type into their browsers to find you.)

For example: if your name is Kate Middleton, you will likely find that KateMiddleton is already taken. Try for variations like CatherineMiddleton, KateSMiddleton, theKateMiddleton, KatieMiddleton, AuthorKateMiddleton, etc. When you find one that works, you will be given a URL:
www.theAuthorKateMiddleton.Blogspot.com   or    www.WriterKatieMiddleton.WordPress.com

Your sign in will be your user name and you will be asked to choose a password.

At this point, you have an account. You will then be asked to name your blog, provide a Blog Title. I suggest using your pen name. You can make a separate blog for a specific book, project, etc. But for now, start with a writer’s blog. Everything you put in there will be easily sorted.

Your blog host will now show you how to post your first article. Tech stuff is done. Now you’re back to being a writer. So write. About anything you want.

Post your thoughts, your ideas, comments about other things, some of your writing, etc. Anything you want. It doesn’t matter. Just start. Try to post something regularly – twice a week is a great place to start. Every day is difficult – even for the pros.

Later, when you’re comfortable, start looking at personalizing your blog with themes, pictures, widgets (don’t worry about what they are – you’ll figure that out later – and they’re fun,) links, etc. Let your blog grow with your expertise. Set a goal to have something that looks pretty good a year from now. You’ll look back and wonder what was holding you back. All you’ll been doing for the past year is writing.

GET A DOMAIN

Your name is your name. As a writer, it’s your brand – the words/logo/idea that identify you as you to the rest of the world.

Grab the Domain!

What that means is very much like getting a patent for your invention. If you are WriterKatieMiddleton, go online and register the Domain  WriterKatieMiddleton.com   Even if you don’t use it, you’ve prevented everyone else from using it. You will want it later. It’ll probably cost you around $15 per year. If you have the cash and the inclination, grab the other domains, WriterKatieMiddleton.net, .co, .mobi, .me, etc. They’ll cost about $7 per year each. But owning your domain means that down the road, you will be able to address your own website with a personalized domain name.

http://www.WriterKatieMiddleton.com  is more professional and confident than http://www.WriterKatieMiddleton.Blogspot.com

That can all happen when you’re more comfortable with the online stuff. But put them in your back pocket for now, now, before someone else takes your name.

There are Domain Hosts – not to be confused with Web Hosts – that can sell you a domain registration. Big websites like GoDaddy and HostGator are easy to find, have good support, and reasonable prices. There are smaller sites who can do the same thing – this depends on your preference. Often, you’ll get a better price on Web Hosting in the future if you decide to expand your blog into a full blown website, and use the Domain Host’s services to host your website. (WordPress will ‘host’ your blog site for free, Web Hosts charge for a much more intricate service.) Many of the smaller Domain Hosting companies don’t have, or don’t have extensive, web hosting services. Take your future plans for online growth into consideration when choosing a domain host.

MAKE SOME FRIENDS

No, if you’re not comfortable with all of this, you don’t have to join Facebook.

But you do want to connect with other people. Writers, readers, fans, editors, publishers, bloggers.

As a writer in the real world, you’ve likely attended writers’ courses, seminars, symposiums, conventions. You’ve probably joined a writers’ group. You’ve probably talked to friends and family about your writing.

In the virtual world, you do the same thing. Only with exponentially effective results. There are forums, blogs, social networks, businesses, and connections online where you can meet people who have the same goals, challenges, needs, as you do. You can Google “WRITERS” and spend the next month sifting through some of the millions of sites that come up.

Save yourself some time. Look at the organizations, people, and businesses that you work with in the real world. Do you have a magazine subscription? A writers’ group? A favourite bookstore? Find them online and join their discussion boards.

As with real life, if you wouldn’t walk into a dinner party where you know no one and start handing out your business cards and asking people to buy your product, don’t do that online. There is an etiquette to joining a group of people who likely already have a longstanding relationship. Introduce yourself, listen, get to know others around you, ask questions. Let them warm up to you. They will eventually start asking about you. Invite them to read your blog, to add a link to your blog on their sites, and ask if you can link to their sites from your blog. These relationships are what grow into a solid and marketable online presence.

Use patience and care to grow your blog, as you would a treasured rose bush. Sure, you could go out and make a sensational YouTube video of you dancing naked on Parliament Hill. It would go viral and everyone would want to know who you are. But your fifteen minutes of fame will fade quickly if you don’t have the content to keep your visitors interested and coming back. And, let’s face it. If you put the work into the content and quality of your blog, it will grow. And you can keep your clothes on.

Now a year or two down the line, you’re pitching a book idea to a publisher, and you invite the publisher to visit your blog. She sees a ton of quality sample writing, gets to know your personality and friends, and knows exactly with whom she’s going to be dealing. You’ve essentially just invited her over for dinner to meet your family. You have a thousand visitors a month who are going to know that she’s publishing your book – that’s good for you, that’s good for her. Suddenly, you look much more appealing.

Put this all into perspective at Romantic Shorts. Once we’re running at full steam, we expect to be publishing upward of 200 short stories per year, written by some 150+ writers. If each of those writers has a thousand visitors per month, and links to our publication, inviting readers and writers to join us, we could easily be looking at a network of tens of thousands of visitors per month. That’s no small potatoes for our writers!

GROW YOUR PLATFORM

So a year has passed. You’ve now polished your blog, mastered your widgets, welcomed the world. It’s time to move forward with confidence. There are countless ways to grow your site into something that meets your needs, interests your visitors, and makes you some money. As you reach this comfort level, take some time to watch others, to see how they grow.

I’ve always been intrigued by my inadequate impression of people. I see a pregnant woman at the mall, and I can’t think of her as anything but a pregnant woman. Yet I could see her again in two months, and am then surprised to have to perceive her as a young mom. We take snap shots of the world around us all the time, without giving much thought to the process that led to, or the growth that will come from, that moment.

Websites are an excellent example of this. You will connect with other sites. Watch them grow, change, evolve to meet the changing expectations of their visitors, the growth of their product, and the maturity of their expertise. Use these examples to make a plan for your own site. Where do you want to be two years from now? What was once scary and intimidating, is now full of enthusiasm and anticipation.

The bottom line. You’re going to be writing anyway. Don’t work harder; just work smarter.

Tell us what you think. Do you have a writer’s site? What has been your most difficult obstacle? Your best advice? Feel free to leave your URL so we can see what you’ve been able to accomplish.
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Filed under For Writers, Writing and Getting Published 101, WUC Symposium

Romantic Shorts – Our First Post!

Welcome to Romantic Shorts.

I promised myself I wouldn’t sit here endlessly contemplating the perfect opening blog post for this new site. So I’ll start with that.

Writer’s Block.

Anyone who has ever had to write down something more than their own name – signing yearbooks back in highschool, coming up with an original greeting for the retirement card floating around the office, a letter to home, an article for a newsletter, an essay, a novel, a thesis – has encountered the dreaded abandonment of thought, feeling, imagination, vocabulary, inspiration, sanity. We’ve all been at a loss for words at some point.

Verbally, this usually results in the impromptu spewing of some sort of personal information that had no business passing across our lips. Hours later we will still be wondering aloud in the car what the hell we were thinking – and what the husband will say when he finds out I just told a group of co-workers that he likes to sing old camp songs after he’s been most satisfyingly intimate. (Geez, he should be used to this by now.)

When faced with the excruciatingly noisy silence that inevitably creeps its way into every conversation, we can only hope that at some point in our adult lives, we simply learn to shut up.

Fortunately, when dealing with the written word, the rules are quite and very opposite. More dangerous in some ways, but easier to follow. Especially given the convenience of the computer.

The keyboard and its exceptional ability to edit, move, copy, paste, and delete is the perfect way to sample what we want to say.

Write. Delete. Write, rewrite. Delete. Write. Write and write some more. Edit. Rearrange. Replace. Write again.

No writer’s cramp. No balls of paper overflowing the wastebasket. No blobs of ink all over the side of the hand/face.

The computer allows us to quickly and easily tweak and smush until we have exactly what we want.

Of course, we then have to be absolutely and completely positive that what we’ve written is exactly what we want to say; the computer eliminates the hope of insisting after the fact that we didn’t mean it.

But because everything we write electronically is virtually pliable right up until we hit the ‘send/save/enter’ key, it’s also all disposable, making the practice of writing practically effortless and inexpensive. If we avoid the pitfall of falling in love with our creations, see them as clouds in the sky, constantly changing, moving, and just learn to appreciate the process instead of the product, we begin to grow in skill and confidence.

The next time you find yourself staring at your keyboard thinking, ‘…maybe just a quick game of Solitaire until something comes to me,’ just start writing – about something completely different than where you started.  Write about not being able to write. About what your husband would think about you having nothing to say. What if no one ever wrote again? What if you could spend a day writing down every thought that crossed your mind? What if? What if? What if?  Once the creative juices are flowing, you’ll find you’re back on track. Maybe a different track, but at least writing again, building confidence and probably coming up with a few ideas to start with next time you’re looking for divine intervention.

There is no such thing as Writer’s Block. We stretch before we exercise. We smell our food before we eat it.  We shop before we buy.

And let’s face it, sometimes the foreplay is the best part!

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Filed under For Writers