Be an Author Frog: Hop from Blog to Blog

cartoon frog hoppingSo you want to join in a Blog Hop, but you’re not entirely certain how to do so:

To find one, click on the link above. Number seven gives a great list of Blog Hops. You can also do a Google search with a key term such as author, memoir, middle grade, kid lit, or writing. Or, visit some blogs that concentrate on the same issues you do,  pay attention to whether they mention a hop, and leave a comment or write an email asking about it.

When you participate in a Blog Hop, you want to:

  1. Add your blog to the Linky (or just leave your blog URL in a comment at the bottom of your post, as per the post’s direction)
  2. Follow and comment on the host’s and participants’ blogs

Participating in a blog hop does many things for you:

  • It drives traffic to your blog;
  • it helps you build relationships with the other bloggers involved;
  • it allows you to see what others in your genre/area/etc. are talking about;
  • usually, when you follow other blogs, those bloggers will follow yours as well.

All in all, Blog Hopping builds your audience, which is the goal for your blog!

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Write What You Know (An Ode to Kurt)

“I think I’ll write a story – make it a 300-page novel – of something I know nothing about,” said no one ever.

Unfortunately, dear readers, this is not the case. People are writing books, essays, short stories, movies and even news articles on topics that have absolutely no basis in that individual’s reality. All. The. Time.

I’m not talking about reality versus fiction or any sort of physical reality. I’m talking about what is real to a human being; something that stirs emotion inside of him.

Let’s back up.

VONNEGUTMy favorite author of all time, Kurt Vonnegut, was a science fiction writer. Not much in the way of tangible, realistic events taking place in these books. Vonnegut didn’t write about Billy Pilgrim getting unstuck in time and being kidnapped by aliens because he was familiar with time travel and extraterrestrials, but he used that as a device to write what he was familiar with – the bombing of Dresden and being stuck in an underground slaughterhouse meat locker.

He knew the ins and outs of the city of Dresden. He understood the emotions tied up in witnessing such death and destruction – and surviving it. He knew the experiences of a World War II POW and what it felt like to burn the corpses of his comrades and of the women and children of this sleepy German town.

Vonnegut’s revisiting of this experience took many shapes throughout his writing career – it was such an integral, formative experience in his life, it shaped everything else to follow.

That’s not to say that all of Vonnegut’s work was autobiographical. (Nor should yours be). The common thread in all of his writing was the depth of understanding he displayed for his subject matter. He wrote about what he knew. Whether that was his home city of Indianapolis (which makes a cameo in a great deal of his novels); his knowledge and interest in politics and his strong liberal slant; or his experience as a soldier in World War II – it all came from his reality.

So when writing your next Great American Novel, be sure to include at least one aspect that is near and dear to your heart. Don’t write about a self-exploratory journey to India if you don’t know anything about Indian culture. Don’t write a story of loss and depravity if you’ve never lost anyone close to you (instead, rejoice, because you are very lucky). Instead, think about what makes you who you are, what you have to offer the world as one of the seven billion of souls inhabiting it, and write about that.

“All my jokes are Indianapolis. All my attitudes are Indianapolis. My adenoids are Indianapolis. If I ever severed myself from Indianapolis, I would be out of business. What people like about me is Indianapolis.”
- Kurt Vonnegut

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Quick-and-dirty Tips on using your new Twitter account

Rule of Thirds:

Tweet 1/3 the time personal insights

Tweet 1/3 the time to engage/converse with others (by using the @ symbol)

Tweet 1/3 the time offering content (such as your blog link)

 

Terminology:

Twitter handle – Users’ identities on Twitter.

Hashtag – A keyword that makes your tweets searchable by other Twitter users.

Reply – Answering someone else’s tweet. It doesn’t have to be one that mentions you; you can butt into a conversation on Twitter.

Retweet – Sending someone else’s tweet to all your followers.

Favorite – Saving a tweet for later.

Direct message/DM/PM – Private email system within Twitter. You can only send a private message to someone who follows you.

 

Home includes:

Profile box, top left – Shows your picture and the numbers of your tweets/following/followers. If you click on your name, it opens your profile (see below)

Tweet timeline – A compilation of tweets from people you are following, with the most current on top.

Trending topics – When a large number of people in a given area (in the world, if it is set to Worldwide trends), Twitter recognizes the hashtag or phrase and puts that search term on the home page.

 

Profile:

Tweets – All the messages you have sent out.

Following – The people you have searched out and decided to see their messages.

Followers – The people who see your messages.

Favorites – A saved list of tweets you wanted to keep or retweet later.

Lists – Where you can put different audiences in a group and see only their tweets when you choose that group.

 

Connect page:

Visit this page first to answer people who have replied to you before you do anything else.

You can see here anytime someone follows, retweets, favorites, or replies to you.

When you see that someone has retweeted you, feel free to reply to them a quick “Thank you!”

If you want to only see the conversations, click “Mentions” on the left, below “Interactions”.

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Running a Successful Author Tweet Chat in 12 Easy Steps

Twitter is a great social network to grow a following around your book. But the quirky social network can bewilder even the most savvy of authors. Many find growing their follower base the most challenging part of engagement. One way to do grow that base of people is to host a tweet chat.

A tweet chat is a per-arranged chat focused on a topic and uses a hashtag to link tweets from the chat into a virtual conversation. And, of course, this takes place on Twitter.

Before we move into the 12-step program to host a tweet chat, you might be interested in these management and research tools for hosting a participating in a discussion on Twitter.

Management Tool

  • Tweetchat: A platform that give you a clean platform to engage in a tweet cat without distractions.

Tweet Chat Directories

  • Gnosis Starts Tweet Chat Directory:This give you a listing of tweet chats by week and gives you a brief summary of each chat’s topic.
  • Twitterchat 411: This site is down at my last visit, but I’ll update later when it has been restored.
  • Google Twitter Chat: Comprehensive Tweet chat directory with lots of detail for those liking that stuff.

Twitter Chat Reporting

  • Tweet Reports (paid): For a small fee, this service creates professional grade tweet chat transcripts.
  • WTHashtag (Free): This is a free reporting service that #Blogchat uses – it’s the world’s largest chat on Twitter. Unfortunately, Mark Collier, the host of #blogchat is reporting the free service is down, said Twitter’s change in terms may be the culprit. (Watch this one, however, it could come back).
  • Tweetdoc (Free): A tweetdoc is created by entering the appropriate hashtag or search term that you’d like to document.

Now that you have tools to host a tweet chat, here is the 12-step program, which is adapted from SpinWeb’s post. That post was the most comprehensive of all that I read. The difference between their’s and ours is in the tools listed above.

12-Steps to Success

  1. Choose a time convenient for people to attend. Know thy audience. If you’re doing a business-to-business chat and your audience is a group of professionals then you may consider running that tweet chat during business hours. This is especially true if your audience doesn’t spend much time in social networks outside of business hours.
  2. Find an influential and organized moderator. A person who is organized, cordial and can keep a conversation moving forward are important trait for moderator. Choose that person wisely.
  3. Choose an easy-to-use hashtag. A simple hashtag helps people remember a chat, and helps with keeping the conversation archive-ready.
  4. Promote your chat in other social networks. Use your blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – all of your social networks to promote the chat. You’ll pull more people in that way.
  5. Use TweetChat to run your event. This tool helps you organize a tweet chat, automatically adds the hashtag to tweet, and it offer the option of creating a room for a chat – makes it easier to promote the conversation in social networks and on a blog.
  6. Greet your participants. Just like any party you organize, don’t forget to invite people. You can’t have a tweet chat unless the gang shows up.
  7. Keep the conversation moving. Adding humor and insightful commentary to the conversation will help the tweet chat move forward. After all, Twitter is a fast moving social network.
  8. Number your questions to keep them organized. This tip helps during the chat because it bring order to the questions being asked, and it will bring order to the transcript after the event has ended.
  9. Be orderly, civil and reasonable. Ah, do I really need to add anything to this one?
  10. Share links and resources quickly. Because Twitter is fast moving, it’s important to get resources to people while a topic is top-of-mind. Otherwise, a resource that comes out of context may confuse some. Later it may muddle the transcript.
  11. End the chat professionally. Yes, everything must come to an end. Send out a 15 minute warning, a 10 minute warning, and a 5 minute warning. When the time has come to end the chat, be prepared thank people for their time, remind them of the next tweet chat, and end with informing the participants of when, where and by what time they can expect to download the tweet chat transcript.
  12. Create and publish a transcript after the chat is complete. This does two things, really. First it gives the people sponsoring a chat history. Secondly, it gives participants a document they can refer to later to glean new insight, knowledge, and perhaps content ideas for themselves.

People who join tweet chats are looking for insights and information – perhaps inspiration for their own content endeavors. But for the sponsor of the chat, this type of event draws your community closer and helps with positioning yourself has a thought leader. How have tweet chats helped you?

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7 Not-so-basic Tips on using your WordPress blog

Parent pages: Categorize your pages so the Menu isn’t too crowded: create and choose a “Parent” (the dropdown list of pages appears underneath the “Publish” – or “Update” button as you edit the page). On any pages you create, write a paragraph describing what that Parent page entails i.e. on an Interactive Community page, write about how you’d love to hear from readers.

Categories: In a similar fashion, choosing a broad category for each of your posts helps organize your blog for your readers. Check the box next to the category you want to assign your post to as you create/edit it. This appears on the right side, underneath the “Publish”/”Update” button. As a general rule, have no more than 5-6 categories. This means you’ll need to be pretty broad with the category titles.

Tags: These are keywords that you type in (below categories) that correspond to what you’ve talked about in the blog. They will be the events, concepts, people, websites, books you talk about in your post. I usually average 8-10 tags per post. These tags/keywords help search engines offer your blog as the answer to a search. (Also, Google especially likes to provide the newest content.)

Alternate text for photos: Just like tags help search engine users find the blog, alternate text – which appears on the same form as the Alignment and Size options – helps people find the photos, bringing them to the blog. The alternate text also appears if for some reason the photo won’t load.

Widgets: Any time you want to add something to the design of your site – say more social media links or links to blogs you like to follow – you would do that under the Appearance tab with widgets. You select the one you want from the ‘buffet’ of widgets on the left and drag them to the sidebar on the right.

Links: Providing links is offering your readers the backstory on whatever event/person/etc. you mention in the blog.  Links make sure that you’re on the same page with your reader, basically your works cited in the post.

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