Interaction On Your Blog

I’ve been wondering something about my fellow bloggers, particularly regular visitors. I consider it an achievement to have comments on all my recent posts (which is happening more often these days as my writing transitions from self-indulgent ramble to actually useful for other writers). Is this the case for you guys? Do you get a lot of blog comments or very few, and what is your definition of these numbers? How about “likes” for you other WordPress people? And how often do people share your posts on other social networks? Feel free to answer in the comments.

I tend to get at least one comment on a new post within a day or two of posting, but this is quite a recent occurrence, and consider anything more than three comments from other users to be a lot. I get a fair few WordPress “likes”, maybe between one and three every few days, but not a lot of shares if my own aren’t included. I’d like to know how other bloggers’ experiences differ from my own.

How to Get Followers

I originally wrote this as a guide to getting more people to follow/friend/circle you back. While this isn’t completely foolproof, just what I’ve picked up from interacting with others on social networking sites, doing these things will make it less likely you’re going to be dismissed as a spammer or someone who follows (circles/friends/etc.) everyone you see in the hopes of a small percentage following back. This guide can also be handy in obtaining followers in general.

Fill out your biography

Most social networking sites have a place for you to write about yourselves. Please fill this out. Be clear what your interests are, which should dictate who you follow and who is more likely to follow back. Google+ has a little tagline beneath your name you can use to list what you do. For example, my tagline is just “Writer, blogger, student”. That’s it. Yet it describes my interests.

Also, use the biography area allowed to describe yourself further, making your interests clear. Google+ also has a section allowing you to link to other profiles/websites of yours. Use it. Here’s my Google+ profile:

Google+ Profile

I clearly describe my interests in greater detail and give a little information about me. I also have included links to other profiles to help people find me in other places. I have a list of recommended links, but you don’t need to do that if you don’t want to. You can add more personal information if you want to, as long as it’s still clear why people should want to interact with you.

Here’s my Twitter profile information, which you have to write in 160 characters or less. Doable? Yes.

Blogger and aspiring writer, loves YA fantasy and paranormal romance, just finished high school. Chocolate addict.

This still covers my main interest, writing, and I also put a link to this website beneath it. The point of the profile is to prove you’re a real person and can offer something of interest to the people looking to follow you.

I don’t have a profile on Facebook open to people I don’t know personally, but you can fill out your “about me” section in a similar manner to Google+ if you want to network using the site.

Use a real photo of you

While people might follow you back if you have your pet as your profile picture, it can be slightly disconcerting. It’s best if you have a close-up so people can see your face well and make sure the image isn’t of poor quality. If you’re looking to network online, you’re better off showing your real face. Some people do make it work with a cartoon image or the like, but I’m definitely more wary of following them.

Also, don’t leave the default image given to you by the website. The Twitter “egg” image is an immediate red flag in particular, as the website is riddled with spammers.

Share publicly and regularly

If you want to network online, people need to be able to see what you’re sharing before they decide you’re worth following back. If your profile and timeline or stream are hidden, your chances of getting people following you back are low, unless you have already met your potential followers. You don’t have to share everything publicly, but you have to give some indication of what you’re all about.

Also, you want to share something on a regular basis so it doesn’t look like you’ve abandoned your account. If you’re busy, even a weekly check-in is better than nothing at all. I’ve been guilty of abandoning my accounts for sometimes months at a time, and it has not done me any favours, I assure you.

Share well

If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re not, don’t try to be. Use what you’re good at. Sharing interesting links or observations about something you find interesting will get you followers. I try to link to relevant blog posts every so often and retweet often. I also create my own content, either directly on the website or through this blog.

Be open-minded

It’s okay to be opinionated (I certainly am) but if you slam another person’s beliefs, you are going to lose a lot of potential followers. I touched on this in my previous post in the section about anti-traditional publishing rants. Social networking can be a great place for intelligent debate, as I’ve found on Google+ in particular. Sometimes you might need to tone down your views a little bit so you don’t alienate people you might otherwise get along well with.

For example, while I’m strongly for the continuation of traditional publishing and read primarily traditionally published authors, I’m willing to give self-published authors a chance and follow a lot of them on Google+ and Twitter. They might not share all my beliefs, but they can be a valuable source of information about writing. Most of them are also very friendly, save for the handful of kooks proclaiming the death of traditional publishing. Then again, you get some kooks on the traditionally published side as well.

I’ve also had a few problems with, shall we say, rude people. I tend to rant a lot about the portrayal of Young Adult fiction in the eyes of those who neither write nor read it. Someone tweeted me that YA was just a “marketing excuse” to sell mature themes to “children”. As both a reader of YA and a teenager who just got called a child (for the love of God, do not call teenagers children if you want to get out alive), I found this quite insulting. If you know someone holds a particular view, you’re better off not attempting to make them see “the error of their ways”. While I’m happy to engage in debate with another open-minded individual, I do not take kindly to people slamming my beliefs, and nor does anyone else.

I suppose the message to take away from this section is “play nice with others”.

Interact with other users

Whether it’s through the @ tweeting or through comments on Facebook or Google+, don’t be afraid to jump into conversations you feel you can contribute to. If you uphold the previous point, you may win yourself some new followers or, at least, the respect of those around you. However, you shouldn’t do this just to get followers. It should be something you do willingly. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, you can observe conversations between the people you follow at first until you get the hang of things. I used to be extremely shy on the internet, but not so much anymore. I observed and dipped my toe in before plunging headfirst into conversation. It’s amazing the people you can meet online if you take the time to say hello.

When it comes to social networking, it’s important to be kind, courteous and open-minded but still retain your sense of self. You need to give fellow users a reason to follow back, something unique and interesting. Give them you.

Why I Didn’t Buy Your Book

The prevalence of social networking sites has made it easier than ever for writers to reach readers, regardless of whether they are traditionally published or self-published. However, it’s also extremely easy to go overboard with marketing or to just look like an idiot in front of people from all over the world.

While I’m not a published author, unless you count a couple of tiny anthologies published by a company that has since folded, I am a huge consumer of books. I have over a hundred books on my shelves at home and a never-ceasing “to be read” pile. I know what I like, and what I don’t. A lot of these following problems may only apply to self-published authors or only to those traditionally published, but it’s a good idea to keep all of them in mind. Some of these might not turn everyone off, but I can only speak from personal experience here.

Extreme Anti-Traditional Publishing Views

The majority of the books I read are traditionally published. That is, published by a publishing house. My favourite books are traditionally published and, while I’m not opposed to giving self-publishing books a chance, I will generally give preference to a traditionally published one because it has already gone through a vetting process of sorts.

If you are a self-published author and have an interesting novel concept I might read, the biggest turn-off for me is finding rant after rant against traditional publishing when I visit your blog. Seriously, if you’re trying to convince people who primarily read traditionally published books, rants about traditional publishing essentially insult the readers’ tastes, and, may I add, the decisions made by readers who are thinking of traditionally publishing their own works, like myself.

It’s okay to dislike traditional publishing, but ranting and raving about how they’re not in it for the authors, are liars, money-grubbers, etc. will only make you look like a conspiracy theorist. And very few readers take those kinds of people seriously. I certainly don’t. If the author is incapable of being reasonable and accepting there are both positive and negative sides to all publishing methods, I’m not going to think their work will be very good. While it might not be fair to judge someone’s fiction from their blog, if I see an extremely one-sided view of publishing, often descending into common insults flung at publishers that have ceased to have any real meaning, I’m going to assume your work is just as one-sided and lacking in complexity.

Poorly-formatted or poorly-spelled blog or website

I rant a lot about hating white text on black backgrounds, but that’s not the only thing that can go wrong with a blog or website. I often find potential authors following me on Twitter and the first thing I do while deciding whether or not to follow back is to look at their website. If it is messy, impossible to navigate or glaring spelling errors pop out at me, I am going to be much less inclined to read your book. If your website is this unprofessional, will your book be the same?

A clean format with easy to find links on the sidebar and across the top of the page beneath the heading are your best bet. Anything important should be listed there. I recently went on to an author’s website because the title of their book interested me, only to have a hell of a time finding a page about their books. I eventually found a picture of one of the books halfway down the page in the sidebar. It’s fine to do that, but maybe a little messy, as long as you also have an easy to find page where you have information about all your books. Readers don’t want to embark on a treasure hunt to find your books.

Also, proofread your damn blog posts and website content. If you aren’t a very good speller, get someone else to help you. PLEASE. And, while you’re at it, you better have found someone to proofread your book.

A Terrible Book Cover

Traditionally published authors often have no control over their covers, but self-published authors do. If you want your book to be bought, you had better shell out for a decent designer if you are not one yourself. The cover is your book’s clothing, if you will, and while some people wouldn’t be opposed to a cover equated to someone dressed in dirty rags, I assure you many people will. The old “never judge a book by its cover” adage may work with people, but the literal sense of book covers is incorrect. If your cover is absolutely hideous or boring, people will be turned off.

A Terrible Blurb

Oh, these exist. Sometimes it’s possible to get past clichéd descriptions of a plot if the plot itself actually sounds okay, but it’s not going to do you any favours. If you write something like Jane Doe was an ordinary girl living an ordinary life before the sexy John Smith arrived at her school, I will probably run away. The number of hackneyed plot elements described in that sentence has reached toxic levels. Yes, the plot elements can work in a novel if reworked well enough, but the “ordinary girl” cliché in particular is so overdone you will lose potential readers if you don’t put an interesting spin on it in your blurb. Some traditionally published authors, again, don’t have control over this, but some do and so do all self-published authors.

Sales Spam

The number of people on Twitter who do this is astounding. Let’s just say you follow someone because their blog looks interesting or they have a handful of interesting tweets. However, once you follow them you receive a direct message reading something along the lines of: “Hello, thanks for following. Here’s a link to my book.” Ugh. Maybe some people buy, but plenty don’t.

Repetitious tweets about your book are also a turn-off. It’s okay to link to, say, a review of your book every so often and make it clear in your profile description you do have a book out, but it’s not okay to beat your readers over the head with sales pitches. This sort of marketing is so intrusive and transparent that you will lose Twitter followers and possible sales.

You’re better off providing interesting tweets about things that may relate to your book. For example, if your book involves faeries, you might link to articles or other people’s books about faeries that you like. Most people on Twitter also share minor details about their lives on occasion and create content that will interest their followers. This is a much better alternative to over-marketing, and will make readers feel like they know you. If they like what they see, they might purchase your book.

More Information

Blog posts like this come around every so often, although generally from more experienced members of the writing community than me.

Rachelle Gardner recently posted What NOT to Blog About, which has a slightly broader focus than just turning off potential buyers.

A Writer On Writing posted last year Social networking (or what NOT to say to an editor), which is focused on networking in person and contains a real-world example of rude behaviour, which she experienced.

Nathan Bransford’s Ten Commandments for the Happy Writer is less about finding readers and more about not going insane from the publishing process, but some of the commandments are relevant to what’s been discussed in this post.

I hope I left you with something to think about. I also hope I haven’t offended anyone. I do try to temper my opinions on the internet so I don’t look like a raving lunatic. Here’s a smiley face to make things better :)

Creating A New Identity

I just registered for Nathan Bransford’s forum and I got to thinking, which is something I think you’ll agree I tend to do too much. Something that often strikes me when I use my penname is that I’m creating a wholly different persona to who I really am, just because the name is different. I’m sure that anyone who bothers to look can find the ‘real’ me without too much effort, as I make no secret of my likes, dislikes, hobbies, et cetera. I even use my real face. The point behind using the penname Ann Elise Monte is not for secrecy. It’s for ease of spelling, memory and because I don’t really want my real name on the cover of a book. I get enough ridicule about my surname in school, thank you very much.

I put a lot of thought into crafting my penname. I wanted something that looked nice on paper, but wasn’t too difficult to pronounce. I also wanted something that I could easily remember and respond to. Since I already respond to names like “Ann” and “Anna”, and my real name sounds like “Ann Elise” it seemed like a reasonable choice. The name “Monte” is in my mother’s side of the family. I decided against choosing something too pretty or too exotic as everyone has different taste in names and I didn’t want to put people off.

Once I had my penname, I began to build myself a brand around it. Sure, most people still won’t know who the heck I am, but at least I can tell a publisher or agent that I already have some kind of platform, something which they tend to look favourably on as far as I can gather from the information provided on agent blogs and the like. While I’m not extremely active, I do tweet, blog (obviously) and participate in forums, all the while using the identity I have crafted. I’m still me, just with a shiny name.

Some authors create elaborate alter egos and keep their true lives tightly under wraps. That might work for some people, but not for me. I briefly considered doing something like that, but that would prevent me from being myself.  While I do enjoy acting, being a completely different person all the time while online did not appeal to me.

Still, everybody’s different and you should do what you feel is best for you. I just thought I’d give you my experience, since that’s mostly what I do on this blog anyway.