Blogging is a Basic Form of Self-Publishing

Blogging connects writers directly to readers with no middlemen, delays, or layers of isolation.

Blogging is a Basic Form of Self-PublishingAt one time, not too long ago, most everyone decried self-publishing as second-rate, used only by the marginal scribe and unpublishable writer. This is no longer the case.

Now most everyone (except perhaps traditional publishers) views self-publishing as a viable option for anyone to consider, from novice to seasoned veteran. Indeed some indie authors self-publish because they can make more money that way, publish books faster and more frequently, and maintain greater control over their product and career.

Self-publishing, however, is not just about books. Self-publishing can be much simpler. At its most basic, blogging is a form of self-publishing, perhaps the most pure and direct. Blogging is a means of publishing that connects writer directly with reader, as it is now with you and me. With blogging there are no middlemen offering delays, causing interference, or interjecting layers of isolation.

Another bonus with blogging is that it’s not restricted to one-way communication, but opens the door for two-way interaction, through the comment section.

I’ve been blogging since 2008 and have written over 1,600 posts. One day, in my spare time, I will compile some of those posts and turn them into a book.

Actually I started this project a couple of years ago. I need to get back to it. And when I do self-publish my book of blog posts, I will have connected two types of self-publishing: the blog with the book.

What is your experience with blogging? Have you ever self-published a book? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below. Feel free to link to your blog.

Should You Use Video to Grow Your Platform?

Video may be the next step in connecting and engaging with an audience

Should You Use Video to Grow Your Platform?With advances in technology, and the power residing on every smartphone, it has never been easier to record a video and start a vlog. A vlog is a video blog. I’m a huge proponent of blogging and in the past tried the audio version of that: podcasting. (See The Power of Podcasting and My Experience With Podcasting.)

Moving a blog to video is the next evolution in communicating with our audience. Some people, such as Michael Hyatt, videotape their podcast sessions so they end up with a two for one deal: a podcast and a video.

Though a growing number of people consume information in video format this is mostly for short-form video: content lasting only a few minutes. Video increasingly pops up in social media, and starting a YouTube channel is a great tool to share and disseminate video content.

Longer form video, however, has one key disadvantage. It requires viewers to sit in front of a screen in order to consume the content. While video can be most engaging it requires commitment on the part of the viewer to dedicate the time to watch it. With our short attention spans, few people are sufficiently patient.

As one adverse to being on camera, I know that vlogging is not for me. Yet for those who are comfortable being videotaped and enjoy the experience, vlogging may be the way to go.

A second consideration is our audience. Does our audience consume content via video? If so, this is another reason to pursue it. But if they prefer other forms of communication, then vlogging is a waste of our time.

While producing video to grow our platform and connect with our audience may be an ideal opportunity for us, don’t jump in without considering the ramifications. First, are we ready for it? Second will our audience watch it?

What is your experience with video? How could a vlog grow your platform? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

My Experience With Podcasting

Last week I mentioned four benefits of having an author podcast to build our platform. The reasons are compelling. But before jumping in, we need to consider if podcasting makes sense for us.

My Experience With PodcastingI was an early adopter of podcasting. Though I don’t have the dates, it was shortly after I started blogging, so around 2009 or 2010. Those podcasts are no longer online so I can’t even verify when.

My process was simple. I’d interview people at conventions. I used a digital recorder with a cheap mic, didn’t prep for the interview, and made no edits afterwards. I just posted the raw files. Overall it wasn’t bad – as long as my subjects were extroverts and didn’t clam up in front of a microphone. However the results were far from professional and wouldn’t meet the much higher expectations of people today.

So before you jump into podcasting, consider the following five questions:

Do You Enjoy Public Speaking? Some people can stand in front of an audience and offer an interesting monologue with little prep and no anxiety. Accomplished orators usually make for good podcasters. However, if public speaking terrifies you, podcasting won’t be much better. Yes, a podcast doesn’t have people staring at us, but we also don’t have any visual cues from our audience to know if we are connecting with them.

Are You Blogging? Are you currently blogging? Are you doing so consistently, according to a schedule? Do you have enough content ideas? The reality is that if you’re having trouble blogging, you will most likely struggle even more with podcasting.

Do You Have Time to Prep? Six years ago I got away with doing no prep work. That won’t fly today. For interviews you need to research your guest and formulate twice as many questions as you will need. If you’re not doing an interview but a monologue, the prep time is even greater, the same as for a speech.

Are You Willing to Do Post-Production Work? You will need to edit the recording. No matter how much you planned or how good you are, you will need to edit the file. You’ll also want to add an intro and an outro. Though you can outsource this, that costs money.

Will You Invest in the Right Equipment? Though you don’t need much of an investment to produce a decent podcast, you do need a quality microphone, as well as software to record and edit the results. Then you’ll need a site to post the files. (Putting them on your website or blog could crash your site if too many people try to listen at once.) You’ll also need a computer with a good Internet connection and a quiet place to do the recording.

Starting a podcast can be enjoyable. It can also be taxing if you aren’t the right personality for the task or ready to do what needs to be done to do it well.

Weigh the benefits and costs before you begin.

Do you think you are the right personality to be a successful podcaster? Do the benefits offset the detriments? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

The Power of Podcasting: Four Reasons to Have an Author Podcast

It seems people are jumping on the podcasting bandwagon. They want to grow their audience and build their platform in order to sell their books (or whatever other product or service they have to offer).

The Power of Podcasting: Four Reasons to Have an Author PodcastThis makes sense. Look at the recent surge of interest in audiobooks, with people who “read” books by listening to a recording. They do this during their commute to and from work, as they exercise, or when they attend to projects around the house. They have become voracious “readers” without ever opening a book or turning on their e-reader.

Podcasting extends the audiobook mindset. A podcast simply becomes another audio expression for these folks to consume.

Here are some of the benefits of author podcasts:

Another Channel to Reach Readers: A natural communication channel for writers is the written word. Blogging connects nicely with that. Readers read books; readers read blogs. It makes sense, a lot of sense. However readers who listen to books won’t likely read a blog, but they will likely listen to a podcast. With podcasting writers have two ways to reach their audience.

Another Means to Connect with Readers: When we read a book or blog post we use the sense of sight to see the words. When we listen to a book or a podcast we use the sense of sound. With audio we use voice inflections, interject emphasis, and add timing to each sentence as we speak. These benefits of audio all allow us a better means to connect with our audience.

Another Creative Outlet For Authors: Writing is a creative art; so is speaking. Both communicate but in different ways. Both provide creative outlets, but which tap different aspects of our creativity.

A Fun Break From Writing: No matter how much we like to write, we all need to take a break. After all, once we spend a full day working on our book, do we really want to spend another hour writing a blog post? Not likely, but spending that hour on podcasting provides a nice alternative to writing. Then we can return to writing with a refreshed perspective.

Given these great benefits you might be ready to jump on the podcasting bandwagon. Not so fast. First you need to consider whether podcasting is right for you. Next week I’ll look at my experience with podcasting, which should provide some more insight into this intriguing communication option.

Do you listen to podcasts? Have you ever done a podcast? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

How Not to Write a Nonfiction Book

How Not to Write a Nonfiction BookA friend, who is also a prolific reader, once shocked me. Talking about nonfiction books, he said: “I only read the first chapter. Then I page through the rest and stop to read anything that’s interesting.”

My incredulous look encouraged him to explain. “Most nonfiction books pack their entire message into the first chapter. The rest of the book just rehashes it.” While some books warrant a more thorough investigation, he claimed most didn’t.

I’ve tested his theory. He’s right. Most nonfiction books present all of the essential information in the first chapter. Yes, the subsequent chapters do expound on the first chapter’s truths, but they do little to add substance to the main concept. In too many nonfiction books, I learn 90 percent of the main material in 10 percent of the time by just reading the first chapter.

I see three reasons why this happens:

1) The author doesn’t have enough content for a book. Some ideas, really great ideas, are simply not big enough to fill a book. Maybe it’s perfect for an article or even a blog post, but not a book. Yet authors may try to stretch an article into a book.

2) The author has a word count goal. Publishers (or agents) want a certain length book. They require X number of words to fill Y number of pages. That’s what best fits their production process or what marketing feels the buying public expects. After all, if we spend $15 on a book, we expect it to have some heft. As a result, authors stretch their words to hit a target. But that doesn’t make for a good book.

3) The author doesn’t know how to write nonfiction. There are all kinds of instruction on how to write fiction, but the amount of information on writing nonfiction is nonexistent in comparison. Maybe the assumption is that nonfiction is easy to write and requires no training. In fiction, we learn how to grab readers’ attention, keep them turning pages, and skillfully guide them to a satisfying conclusion. We would never reveal the ending in chapter 1 and then explain how it all happened. Yet that is precisely what too many authors do in nonfiction.

The more I think about this, the more I realize what a huge problem this is. Maybe I should write a book about it. No, on second thought, I only have enough for a blog post.

Do you find this true when you read nonfiction? What resources can you recommend about writing nonfiction? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Three Reasons to Comment on Blog Posts – and One Reason Not To

Three Reasons to Comment on Blog Posts – and One Reason Not ToThere are several blogs I follow; I read them whenever I can. Sometimes I just read, and other times I read and comment. Only a small percent of blog readers take time to comment. The reasons are many: too busy, a lack of confidence, not knowing what to say, fear, and so forth. There are, however, some reasons why we should comment. Here are three:

1) To Interact With Others: The biggest reason to comment is to connect with other likeminded readers. Some do more than just comment on the post, they also comment on other comments. Just remember to keep things positive and civil. Don’t say something online you wouldn’t say in person to your closest friends.

2) To Connect With the Author: As we read blogs, we get to know the author, but the author doesn’t know us at all, though most want to. Adding relevant comments, with appropriate self-disclosure allows the author (and other readers) to get to know us. And don’t we all want to be known?

3) A Link to Our Site: Though it’s secondary, most commenting programs allow us to include a link to our website when we comment. This is good for search engine optimization (SEO), and it provides a means for others to learn more about us if they wish.

4) Not to Promote Our Book: Commenting on blogs is not the place to promote ourselves or our books. Comments are for dialogue not marketing. Avoid the temptation.

What reasons would you add to the list? If you don’t normally comment, why not try it today? I’d love to connect with you. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

WordPress Primer: Seven Tips to Get Started Right and Minimize Confusion

On this blog, I recently posted a series on getting started using WordPress for your blog or website. In case you missed some of them, here are the seven posts:

  1. Using WordPress For Your Blog: Two Options to Consider
  2. Getting Started with WordPress
  3. What’s the Difference Between a WordPress Page and Post?
  4. What’s a WordPress Theme?
  5. What’s a Widget and Why Do I Want Them on My WordPress Blog?
  6. What’s the Difference Between a Category and a Tag on Your WordPress Blog?
  7. Essential WordPress Plugins

Setting up a blog is just the first step; the next one is coming up with great content and presenting it in the best way possible. So, on my blog Byline, were I discuss writing, I just completed a series on blogging, where I shared ideas on how to best use a blog once it’s set up.

Happy blogging!

Be Alert to What Others Say About Us Online

One day on my writing blog, Byline, I wrote about a book I really enjoyed. To my complete shock, the author commented on my post. She thanked me profusely for my kind words, added to the discussion, and then mentioned her upcoming book. I was smitten.

More recently, on my main blog, Spiritually Speaking, I posted a review of a book that highly influenced me. This time the author emailed me to thank me for my kind words. I was shocked he took the time to do so. Then he asked if I’d post a review on Amazon. Even though there were already hundreds, I was happy to do so. As a bonus, I reviewed the book on Goodreads, too!

Neither author knew I existed before I posted about their book. So how did they find my comments? Though I don’t know for sure, I suspect they used Google Alerts.

Google Alerts is a free service that emails users whenever a particular phrase appears online. I recommend all authors setup a Google Alert for their name and book titles. Google will then send an email alert whenever someone uses one of those phrases online.

Then, when it’s appropriate, we can respond to comments about us or our books. The important thing is to be respectful. Thank them; be kind. The goal is to form a positive impression with them and others reading our response.

Of course not everything written about us or our books is positive. Resist the urge to respond to negativity; it will never go well. We must not attempt to defend ourselves. (Let others do that.) Although hurtful, we need to develop a thick skin and learn to ignore the barbs of others. To help deal with online criticism, remember the adage, “The only thing worse than bad publicity is no publicity.”

But don’t focus on the negative. The goal is to add to the online discussion about us and our books, garnering followers and fans.

It only takes a couple minutes to setup a Google Alert. Do it today.

Seven Tips For Effective Blogging

Here is the final installment in our series on using WordPress for blogging: a platform-building, book-selling tool.

For the first six posts, we covered the technical aspects of setting up and using a WordPress blog. In this post, I’ll share implementation tips.

  1. Maintain a Regular Schedule: We respect readers by providing them new content on a regular basis. Don’t blog every day for a week and then disappear for months. Set a schedule and then follow it. I recommend starting with one post a week.
  2. Have a Focused Theme: Pick a topic for your blog, and then stick to it. Make sure it’s not too broad, but ensure you have enough ideas to keep it going.
  3. Keep it Short: When it comes to blogging, less is more. Concise posts honor readers and acknowledges the short attention span of most people.
  4. Make it Scannable: Use bullet points, numbered lists, subheadings, and bold to make posts quick to scan and easy to absorb key points.
  5. Proof Before Posting: The best time to correct a mistake is before it’s published. Take whatever steps necessary to double check your work. When you find an error afterwards, fix it quickly.
  6. Publicize Your Post: Share posts on social media so other people can find it and follow good search engine optimization (SEO) practices so search engines can find it. too.
  7. Interact with Readers: Invite comments and respond appropriately. Build community.

In my blog Byline, I’m sharing more about writing good blog content, so go there for additional information