Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Blog Critique: Joanna Marple

In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

You'll find Miss Marple's Musings, the subject of today's critique, at  Be quick, we'll meet below.

Oh, my fabulous Miss Marple: Your site is wonderful! I really have nothing to nitpick about. I tried to get my husband to say that you needed another color in the background to make it pop, but he said it was fine the way it is (except for a couple of weird lines in the top left of the black section - what is that?) With nothing to complain about, I'll highlight a few of the things you do right:
  • I know your name: It's in your title and prominently displayed in the profile.
  • I know what you write: You tell me in your About Me and you post about similar works.
  • I know how to follow you/subscribe: It's just under your profile - good job.
  • Your posts are easily distinguishable from your sidebar.
  • You have a search box and it's easy to find.
  • Your fonts are consistent.
  • It's easy to comment.
  • It's easy to share your posts.
  • It's easy to find you on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Your header is tied into your blog with your tagline (natural and cultural diversity of the world - I feel the natural world with the picture).
  • You use just enough pictures and color to make your posts stand out, but not crowd.
Let's face it: You're cool. That's all I got, Joanna. Anyone else?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Blog Critique: Diane Estrella

In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

The subject of today's crit comes from the very lovely Diane Estrella at Go ahead take a peek.

Wow, Diane. The designers and myself love the look of your blog. It's clean and organized. The header is simple and doesn't take too much room. You use big, beautiful pictures that stand out and make your posts interesting. Your posts are separated from your sidebar and it is easy to distinguish one section from the other. Visually, this site is stunning. Great job!

Now some things to think about:
  • About page:  I don't mind that you don't have a profile description on your first page because you have a clear link to your "About" page. However your about page doesn't tell us too much. It's cute and I get you have personality, but I don't know what you write, if you write, what your blog is supposed to be for, what you do or who you are. Give us some bio or tell us in a few sentences what you mean to be about. On that subject....
  • Tagline in header: "That's what I'm here for" is cutesy, but again it doesn't tell me much. Even a line before could help clarify; something like "Books. Fashion. Just Plain Life. That's what I'm here for." Or whatever is appropriate. I don't even know what your tagline would say because I'm not sure what your blog is about.
  • Advertising: I'm not a fan of ads on writer blogs, but I don't think your blog quite fits the mold of who my usual critique subjects are. If a blog is going to have ads, then I very much like the way you handle them. They are beautifully integrated and seem to fit your post subjects.
  • Subscribers/Followers: What's more important? Your followers and allowing people to subscribe or your advertising? I would move your followers higher or remove them all together. Having them below your advertisements makes them seem like an after thought while removing them makes it seem purposeful.
  • Reviews: It seems you post lots of reviews. Consider adding the word "Review" to your blog titles when you do. This allows search engines to pick you up more often when people search for reviews on certain topics and makes it easier for first time visitors to know what they're reading.
  • First impressions: Just a little FYI, Joe and I were immediately confused by the powdered detergent giveaway. I can't say you did anything wrong in the way you have it positioned and displayed, it's just one of the first things I saw. Perhaps if you put above it "Tropical Traditions Giveaway" then had the picture of the detergent. I don't know. Any thoughts, readers?
Beautiful blog, Diane. It would take very little to bump it up to the next level. Just add a bit of clarification and you're there. Great work and thanks for participating today!

Your turn, readers. Any feedback for Diane?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday Savvy Sensation: Lydia Kang

It's Saturday. And that means I have a Savvy Sensation to share with you: Lydia Kang. And let me tell you, she's super sensational.  She's a mom, wife, part-time doctor, and a writer. She's also hilarious and beautiful, just take a look at her pic. Her debut novel, THE FOUNTAIN, is out in 2013. But you don't have to wait until then to find out more about her. Read on...

Who are you (what do you write, what are your personal stats)?
I'm a mom of three kids, a part-time primary care internist, and my passion is writing. I eat way too much salt, have a love of young adult fiction, and am geektastic at heart. I'm represented by Eric Myers of the Spieler Agency and my YA sci-fi novel, The Fountain, is coming out in 2013 (Dial/Penguin).

Where can we find you online (blog, twitter, facebook, etc.)?

My blog is called The Word Is My Oyster. On Mondays I answer fictional medical questions and track down bizarre illnesses to fan the flames of inspiration for other writers. Wednesdays are usually random writing-related stuff. Fridays I host authors. I have been known to blog about zombie ants and stinky medical conditions.

When did you begin your online platform building?
In March of 2010. My second blog post ever declared how I was going to quit blogging. Luckily, I ignored that sentiment and just kept going. 

What is your message, if any (is your blog about anything specific, for example)?
Don't eat as much salt as I do. Pretzels are not a food group, unless you want to wake up with sausage fingers and puffy eyes on a daily basis. I'll leave it at that. 

How have you built your followers? What have you done that has been the most successful?
I used to seek out new blogs and new civilizations, boldly going where no one--oh crap, that's the wrong line.

Take two. I used to seek out new blogs, and most of the time, people would follow back. Those who liked my content kept coming back. I participate in a few blogfests every once in a while, because I can find new blogs (and bloggers can find me) and it doesn't feel like I'm smarmily stalking strangers. 

The bottom line to my success, I believe, has ultimately been content and being myself. I think that Medical Mondays, which I was very embarrassed by at first, ended up being a big draw. It's really unique. I've embraced it completely. And I am truly myself on the blog. A little kooky, at times serious, but generally there to hang out with people I like and talk about what I'm passionate about--writing. :)

What have you done that has failed?
I have been unable to make cold fusion work. I also can't bring Elvis back from the dead. Oh I'm sorry--were we still talking about blogs? 

I don't proactively check blog posts as often as I should. I simply can't--I have over 1000 followers at this point, and my first priority is always visiting the blogs of my commenters. Until I can figure out how to alter the space-time continuum, that will be my biggest failure.

How much time do you spend blogging? Reading blogs? Commenting on blogs?
I probably spend three hours each Sunday writing a week's worth of posts. I spend anywhere from 1-4 hours on M,W, and F checking blogs and visiting commenter's blogs.  I feel horrible if I don't visit my commenter's blogs within 2 days.

What else should we know about you?
I can cuss in sign language. I'll never show you though, it's too dirty. 

Any additional advice for our readers?
Learning how to write fiction has included a series of mini-nirvanas for me. Show vs tell. Make every sentence count. Tension. Character arcs.  Writing crappy stuff and having people tell you it's crappy is part of the process. The trick is to find people who will tell you it's crappy in a nice way. 

What makes you unique?
My eleventh toe. Just kidding. People always praise me for doing so much--working, writing, momming (yes, I just made up that verb), making up verbs. But I'm far from perfect and I'm always late. Always. 

Okay, but seriously? Here's a secret to my inner neuroses. I always had this fear that I was smart but not smart enough. So I worked my a** off in school to get where I am. I think that when I tackle some new project, I put in 120% effort for fear that 100% of me is never good enough. That recipe has always worked for me so far. But at the end of the day, I'm always worried that I'm not good enough.

Okay, should I charge you for this session, or what? 

Thanks Laura for having me!

Um, wait, were we playing the psychiatrist in the end there, cuz then I should be charging you! So glad to have you Lydia. Congrats on everything you have accomplished and have yet to accomplish. You're savvy, sensational, and something else.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Blog Critique: Shah Wharton

Blog Critique: In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.So remember that blog critique I was supposed to do Wednesday? Well, here it is!

And we're going about this critique in a different way, if you don't mind. Even if you do mind, I guess you don't really get a say...

Take a look at Shah Wharton's blog at  and we'll meet below.

Rather than give a full list of things I like and/or would do differently, I'm going to concentrate on just three elements. Ready, Shah? Let's go:

1. The blog header:  It's beautiful. It really is. I love the colors and fonts. But it's way too big. We shouldn't have to scroll down to see your profile or your first posts. Also, we can't tell what's more important - the picture or the quote. I would pick one and lose the other.

2. Organization: Shah, your blog is going to allow us to have a much needed conversation about organization. In general it is best to MINIMIZE,MINIMIZE, MINIMIZE. It makes blogs easier to read, follow, enjoy, etc. I'm all for simple, clean, uncluttered blogs.

That being said, I get that you are a collector and that's the spirit of you. Which means you've got to spend extra time working on organizing and cleaning your blog. First, make a list of the top five or so elements on your blog. For sure your blog posts and profile should be on your list. They could be, for example:

  • header picture
  • profile
  • blog posts
  • follow button
  • popular posts
Whatever your list is, they should be prominent. That means immediately we should see them. If this list were your list, you'd already have some work to do. I can't see your profile without scrolling down, I can't find the follow button or popular posts very easily, and I have to look for your posts!  You should then cut out anything that prevents us from seeing those things (such as your announcement, the header quote, etc.).

Now that doesn't mean you can just throw everything at the bottom of your blog (you told me you do this, so I know you already are aware of this). The next step is to list the next five to ten elements that you really, really want to keep. Twelve elements tops. Maybe your list looks like this:
  • subscribe box
  • search box
  • archives
  • social media connections (just one with all of them, not a ton for each one)
  • followers (only one follower box, not several)
  • poll question
  • cool blogs
  • Linky links
These should go be on your sidebar in a clean, easy to find style. All the rest of your elements need to go. Cut them out entirely. Delete them. If you absolutely can't bear to part with them, create a page that's just for your stuff. Call it something like My Stuff or Random or whatever. Put the extra elements there. 

I know that people who read your blog on Google Reader will not be affected by all of this, but the reader's who do physically visit your blog will be much more happy to stay on your blog and read more. 

3. Advertising: We've never talked about it here, but I'd be interested in knowing what people's thoughts are on blogs that have paid ads. My gut is that unless you want to be a professional blogger, you should do without. It confuses your readers. Is this blog for us or for you? Is this blog about your writing or is it about what Google wants us to buy? I don't want to knock a source of income if it is important to you to have it, but these are important things to consider.

Just because it seems I've been really critical about Shah's blog, I must say there are several things I am very happy to see:
  • soothing colors
  • blog depth (pages)
  • linky links
  • search box
  • she has her contact info
  • she has polls (polls are an awesome way to interact with readers)
  • she has some great post content
  • she's really involved in the writing community
Trim the fat and your blog will be ready to go. Keep up the good work, Shah, and thanks for being here (and for dealing with my change of schedule)!!

What do you think about ads, dear readers? And about Shah's blog in general? Please share! 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

No Capcha, Please

Funny story: I was supposed to do a blog critique today and got tied up with family here for the holidays and an emergency at work. So I've moved the blog crit to Friday and here's Friday's post today instead. (Um, I guess that's not really a funny story, but that's what I'm going with.)

I've said this before, but I must blab about it again. The other day I was bloghopping and one of the sites had a captcha (word verification) you had to enter before you could follow and I just couldn't enter it right for whatever reason. (I'm a moron, maybe?)

This is an example of a captcha or word verification.
So I gave up.


I would have followed that blog and maybe would have loved it forever and ever, but I got frustrated and walked away. That blogger lost a reader and a potential customer.

Moral of the story: Make it easy for readers to follow you.  Make it easy for them to comment. Make it easy for them to interact with you. You want readers, remember? Don't put up barriers unless absolutely necessary (like a million spammers, then I understand but I'll still be sad about it).

That's not just from a marketing perspective, it's also a pet peeve.

Are there things that will keep you from following a blog? How do you feel about captchas?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Blog Critique: Janet Johnson

Blog Critique Day: In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. For today's critique I reeled in my husband, graphic designer, Tom Barnes. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

Wanna know how it's done? Then you must check out Janet Sumner Johnson's blog, the subject of today's critique.  Yes, go now! We'll discuss below.

Oh, Janet, you do everything right. Let's break it down:
  • Your name is in your title. Sweet!
  • Your profile is high and visible
  • It's easy to navigate
  • Your background color is not too busy, but it gives visual interest
  • It is mega easy to become a follower
  • You tell me when you post (Mondays and Thursdays) and...
  •'s not too much or too little
  • You blog on topic 
  • I know what your topic is
  • You tell me about your writing
  • You have an "About Me" page
  • You make it easy for me to contact you
  • You have an easy to read, non-cluttered format
  • You have a search box on your blog
  • You have your blog linked up in your profile
  • Your blog posts are not too long
  • You give your readers a prompt to urge comments
  • You respond to comments
  • You tell us why you when you don't comment
  • You use pictures in your posts
  • You have important info in your sidebar (contest end dates, current polls)
And I discovered all of this after only three minutes on your blog. That means I didn't have to search, everything was easy to find. I sincerely have nothing more to say, which is truly a first. Okay, some people may not like the red, but you're never going to please everyone.

Surely a reader out there must have some advice for Janet? Please share your thoughts!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday Savvy Sensation: Lola Sharp

I'm getting this up a little late this morning so I'll be brief in my introduction. Today's Savvy Sensation is Lola Sharp of Sharp Pen/Dull Sword (awesome title, huh?). Her blog is beautiful and awesome and if you haven't ever stopped by there, I encourage you. Now, here's Lola:

Who are you (what do you write, what are your personal stats)?
I write for adults and YA. I'm currently working on a contemp. YA with magical realism. I generally write with a slant towards literary-style prose. 

Where can we find you online (blog, twitter, facebook, etc.)? Blog: Twitter: @LolaSharp GoodReads: LolaSharp.

When did you begin your online platform building? 
I've been blogging for about 18 months and on Twitter for about 8 months. Neither were to build a platform, but just to connect with other writers and readers. When I started I didn't even know what the term 'platform' meant. I've never been about the numbers. Honestly, it's about the friendships and connection. I wish I had more time to connect more often.

What is your message, if any (is your blog about anything specific, for example)? 
Hehe. 'Message', that is a good one. ;) I 'pants' my way through life, writing and blogging. I have never had a blog schedule, I've never had a topic plan. Sometimes I blog about what's going on in my life, sometimes I post an essay or short story, sometimes I talk about books I've read and loved recently, sometimes I talk about craft and writing or conferences or fellow writers. Sometimes I do all of the above in one post. I have no system and I don't pre-write posts. (I should, but I just don't have the time.) Basically, I'm a study in what not to do, but it works for me.

How have you built your followers? What have you done that has been the most successful? 
Honestly, I have no idea. I will say that I sincerely appreciate and adore every visitor, every follower and every comment and I try to visit them all back and follow back. Because, really, it is all about the connection, the relationships. I truly care about every writer, every person I've met in this amazing online community. I think what I've done best is to get out there and visit other blogs and leave comments about their posts, connect with them. Early on that was a lot easier. The more friends you make, the harder it is to get around. I try my best to get around to everyone else's blogs, because I love reading everyone's posts and catching up on their lives and their writing process and progress. But, it's an impossible task to visit everyone every week. (I think that's why I love Twitter so much...I can pop on, say hello to everyone, connect, and then pop off. It's more time effective. But, it's different.)

What have you done that has failed? 
Well, I don't blog or tweet for 'success', so I don't fully understand this question. BUT, I will say, I do feel like a failure because I never have enough time to visit everyone. *sigh* Also, if you're talking numbers, strangely, I get the least comments when I do author interviews/blog tours to support other authors. But I don't consider that a 'fail', because I love supporting my friends and their books.

How much time do you spend blogging? Reading blogs? Commenting on blogs? 
I spend very little time on my blog or my posts, but I try to spend an hour or two each day visiting everyone else's blogs. It really does eat into my writing and family time, but I miss everyone and want to know how they're doing, so I try my best. Sadly, some days I'm so busy I don't have time for more than one or two visits and those are on my phone while in line  or in a waiting room/lobby. Again, this is why I love Twitter, because I can say hello to so many and respond to my @mentions so much faster. And it's easier to tweet on my phone than leave comments on blogs (especially blogs with word verifications on their comments) 

Any additional advice for our readers? 
Make sure your Followers widget is near the top off your blog, thus making it easy and fast to find so we can click and follow.

Oh, yes, I agree: make it easy for people to follow you (but also have your profile up top so people know who you are, exactly the way your blog is). Thank you so much for sharing, Lola! You might not be a showgirl but you're showstopping (yes, I went there :) And you are ever savvy and sensational. Thanks, Lola!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Facebook Friday: Need help? Try Odyl

So a couple of weeks ago I taunted you who are somewhat cold on the Facebook subject with statistics of how many people use the social network. And maybe I convinced you that FB is an amazing resource that can' be ignored. But knowing that might not change how you feel about FB.

Well, here's an alternative. In general I believe you all have the power/knowledge/capability of making your own buzz on FB, but if you truly aren't into it or you haven't got the time, consider Odyl.

Odyl is a fairly inexpensive company that specializes in publicizing published books via FB. They really are awesome. Here's some of the things they will set up for you:
  • Exclusive book content on your FB page
  • Publisher giveaways
  • Reader polls and quizzes
  • Photo and writing contests
  • GoodReads reviews
  • Reader stats
  • and more!
Author J.T. Ellison used Odyl for her latest book launch and found her followers rose 250% in one week. Check out her FB page to see what it looks like.  I don't know the cost so I can't promise its worth it, but they at least have some great ideas for marketing on FB. 

Oh, and they say it's my birthday. It's Mickey Mouse's birthday too. Isn't that kinda cool?

What do you think about Odyl? Would you pay for FB marketing? 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Blog Critique: Bonnie Way

Another Blog Critique Day: In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

While Monday's blog crit was on a baby blog, today's is on an old-timer. Bonnie Way of The Koala Bear Writer has been blogging for five years. Have you looked yet? Well, go on.

You can definitely tell people who have been at it longer. These blogs, while not always more polished, are certainly more defined. The bloggers know what their blog is about, as does Bonnie, and there's no need to guess. Some things we love about her blog are:
  • It's clean and straight foward.
  • Her profile is easily seen and her koala is explained here.
  • It's not cluttered. This is hard when you've been around for awhile: You amass stuff - blog stuff - and keeping it clean is a job. 
  • She has an easy to see format with one side column.
  • She uses photos in her posts.
  • She has depth, aka: extra pages, that shows off important stuff like her writing and editing bio and book reviews.
Bonnie, some things to consider to polish your blog up:
  • I had to search a little for your name. Consider putting it in your subtitle like so: Bonnie Way, freelance writer and stay-at-home mom blogs about her life.
  • The section of your blog is narrow compared to the green background. I know that it adjusts in size so if you have a small screen the background is probably a perfect size, but unless you're reading from an ipad, most people have larger screens these days. Mine's not real big and I'm seeing lots of green.
  • You have a low amount of follower for an old-timer blog. If you want to build up more, consider joining some blogfests. More followers could drum up more freelance work.
  • Just a thought on your religious badges/photos/links: I'm not dissing religion - I myself am the Director of Liturgy and Music at my own Catholic Church (yeah, I have like 4 jobs, it's insane) - and I believe in proclaiming your beliefs, but as your blog is SO about writing and your message is writing, the religious badges seems off-topic. If you had only one, perhaps, or if you also had other writing badges it would feel more balanced. But when I see them I think your blog should be more about religious writing. It's also not a great idea to get religious or political in the same place you are trying to get hired (if you are hoping your blog leads to jobs, that is). That's just something to consider. I think it's okay that you blog about religious things in your life, by the way, because it's not overwhelming and it fits in with the rest of your life sharing.
  • Finally, I wouldn't be me if I didn't say think about adding a search box. It sure helps people who are wading through old posts trying to find something.
Bonnie, congrats on your awesome blog and a special nod to your years of commitment. That's real dedication and we have a lot to learn from that. Thanks for taking part today!

Readers, do you have thoughts about Bonnie's blog? 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Blog Critique: Lizzi Tremayne

Blog Critique Day: In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

Today's critique victim volunteer is Lizzi Tremayne at  Now Lizzie has a baby blog. She's only been blogging for a few short months. Take a moment and check her out. I'll wait.

Lizzi, you have a good beginning. We love the overall format (one column sidebar) and the font choices. The date display is also very nice. There isn't a ton we have in the way of suggestions. But you know us; we're never short of opinions.

  • Title: We would like to see your full name in your title or subtitle. Readers want to see what you're selling (you) from first glance. The subtitle needs to be a thicker font. It's hard to read. Both the graphic designers would also like color in your black title bar. The black doesn't bother me, but I'm not as visual of a person.
  • Background: At first we were like, what is that background and what does it have to do with her blog? I mean, cool colors, but what's it about? Then we saw the explanation on the sidebar. I like it's meaning. It makes sense. I understand you are all about beginnings right now. I just wonder if there might be a better way to tie that pattern into what your blog is about - make it more cohesive. It's also a problem that....
  • Message: I don't know what your blog wants to be. Are you going to blog about music and equine dentistry? Or just writing? I don't get a sense of that because your subtitle is telling me a ton of stuff, your spiritual geometric pattern is telling me you are about beginnings, and your posts are saying "writer". Streamline. Make them all fit together and your blog will evolve to the next level.
  • About Me: First, I love that your profile is perfectly positioned. I was also very excited to see you had an "About" page. Then I discovered your about page is just a wordpress template. Either fill it out about you (please!) or delete it.
  • Writing: What do you write? I want to at least know what you write about and, even better, connect to samples of your writing.
  • Pictures: I really don't mind you not using pics in your posts because there is so much color in your background. But if someone is reading you from Google Reader, your posts are going to be blah. Just  something to consider.
  • Search Box: I always want a search box. As your blog gets bigger, think about adding one.
  • Consistency: As you build your following and work your way to published author, its best to keep a consistent schedule. Though many people will follow you in their Google Readers and just be happy to read you when you pop in, some will actually go to your blog and look for you. Also, if I'm a first timer at your blog and see you haven't posted in awhile I get a little iffy about your blogging commitment. Some people aren't bothered by such things, but I'm a judger. What can I say?
Great job blogging and rewriting your life. Good luck to you. I can tell you have compassion and a great outlook.

And now I turn it over to the readers: Any thoughts or suggestions for Lizzi? 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saturday Savvy Sensation: Ali Cross

 Today's Savvy Sensation Spotlight is part of a book launch promotion. How exciting! And even more exciting is who I'm spotlighting: The Ever Amazing Ninja Writer, Ali Cross. Read on to experience awesome ninja-ness:

Who are you (what do you write, what are your personal stats)?
Hi Laura and Laura's readers! *waves* Thanks so much for having me today. I'm Ali Cross, the sensei of the Writer's Dojo where I hold a black belt in awesome. I live in Utah with my kicking' husband, two sparring sons, one ninja cat, two sumo dogs and four zen turtles. I write lots of action, particularly of the martial arts kind, into my middle grade and young adult novels. 

Where can we find you online (blog, twitter, facebook, etc.)?
You can find me in lots of places! Blog: Facebook: Twitter:!/ali_cross

When did you begin your online platform building?
Wow, what a great question. I've been blogging since 2008 when I started my first blog "The Girl in a Whirl". At that time I wrote about life and family and all my crazy dreams. I moved over to a writing-type blog at some point because I thought I needed to separate the two parts of me, But then I realized that wasn't the way to do it. I was just me, and I couldn't maintain an online presence being something other than what I was. All I have is me, that's all I have to offer. About a year ago it all came together, what I love, who I am, what I hope to be, and I haven't looked back since!

What is your message, if any (is your blog about anything specific, for example)?
My blog is about not giving up. I've built my platform around the martial arts, "ninjas" for fun. Ninjas know how to work hard. They fight and train and eat, sleep and breathe their goals. That's what we as writers have to be--dedicated, single-minded, ferocious in our efforts to reach our goals. But ninjas also train in a dojo, surrounded by other like-minded warriors. I think writing needs to be like that too. Writing is such a solitary sport, so lonely and discouraging sometimes. But it doesn't have to be--not if you've surrounded yourself with friends who are training just as hard as you.

How have you built your followers? What have you done that has been the most successful?
I think the single-most important key to building and keeping a solid readership is sincerity..
What have you done that has failed?
The tricks or gimmicks I've tried to build a following were fleeting. The friends who have stayed are those I won by being me. 

How much time do you spend blogging? Reading blogs? Commenting on blogs?
Ugh. Too much time, and not enough time. I've tried to cut back, and I managed to a little--but I couldn't stay away for good. I spend a couple hours on Friday writing my blogs for the coming week. I try to visit the blog and respond by email to each person who comments on my blog--usually another couple hours each week. Beyond that, I like to spend at least an hour each day, visiting other blogs--however, I'm not always able to do that. I'm hoping when things settle down from the release of my book, I'll be able to give back a little more, get around to visit the blogs I've been neglecting.

What else should we know about you?
I'm pretty much a dufus and if you hang around me long enough you're bound to see me commit some horrid faux pas or another. I'm pretty stellar like that. :)

Any additional advice for our readers?
Nope. Just keep on keeping' on. Be yourself, believe in yourself. And never, ever give up.

What makes you unique?
I think what makes me unique is the people who love me. Their love for me, their belief in me, lifts me up higher than I could ever achieve on my own. Their support frees me to do the things that I love, to be greater than I am without them.

I know that sounds corny, but it's true!

Thanks for having me today Laura! You're the best!

No, Ali, you're the best! I love your advice about being sincere. That's hard for many of us who are used to writing fiction all day. But if you find a blog message that is all about something you're comfortable with, something that comes naturally, it should be easy, right? And what part of Utah are you from? or live in, I should say because maybe you aren't from Utah. I'm a Utah native even though I'm approaching having spent just as much of my life outside the state as in. Still, it will always be home!

I just totally got distracted because I was loving on Utah. Ali, you are not only a Savvy Sensation, but also just really cool. Congrats on your book launch. Read more about Become below:

Sixteen-year old Desolation Black wants nothing more than to stay in Hell where it’s cold and lonely and totally predictable. Instead, she’s sent back to Earth where she Becomes the evil she despises and the good she always feared.
When Desi is forced to embrace her inner demon, she assumes her Choice has been made—that she has no hope of being anything other than what her father, Lucifer, has created her to be. What she doesn’t count on, is a reason to want to change—something she’s never had before—a friend.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Gathering Guests

A couple of weeks ago I talked about the marketing benefits of guest bloggers. Remember that?

In that conversation a great question came up: How do you get guest bloggers? 

Some of the answers are rather obvious, but there may be some you haven't thought of. And when you are grabbing guests for the purpose of marketing, there are some guests that will benefit you more than others. Let's talk about it:

  • Invitation:  Email other bloggers and ask them to guest blog. Most will say yes. You can also ask people who are not bloggers but if they themselves don't have an internet presence, it won't build your readership. (Though that isn't the only reason to have guests, just the reason we're talking about here.)The people who will benefit you most are people who:
    • have their own following
    • blog about things your readers will be interested in
    • are willing to promote you the day they are on your site
    • and are in some way an authority on the topic they are going to speak on
  • Call for guests: Put a badge in your sidebar asking for guest bloggers. Many readers will step up. Give them a topic to blog on and they will step up even quicker. 
  • Interview: Interviewing another blogger counts as a guest. These are easier for bloggers to commit to because they only have to answer questions.
  • Offer critiques: I'm not going to lie - critiquing other people's blogs is just as good for me as it is for you. Those people drive others to read my reviews. Matt MacNish increased my readers by thirty people with one critique!
  • Host sharing:  Invite people to share queries, loglines, jokes, etc. Make it a contest where other people have to vote on their favorites and you'll drive even more people to your blog.
  • Write reviews: Writing book reviews can get you followers but make sure you -
    • use the author's full name and title of book in your post title so search engines can find you
    • email the author and let them know you are reviewing their work
  • Offer to guest on other people's blogs: People like to return the favor. You do a post for them and then they kind of owe you :)

Your turn: what do you do to gather guests? I've seen some great techniques on other blogs so I know you have wisdom to share!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Blog Critique: Shannon McMahon

Blog Critique Day: In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

Today's blog critique victim is Shannon McMahon of Shannonigans.  Actually, it's a whole website. Take a look.

I have one word for Shannon's blog: Love. 

Shannon's website is perfect from the design to the profile location to the title. I know who she is, I can contact her, I know when she posts, I can search for old posts, she uses appropriate color, I know about her writing. She also does a great teaser technique where she puts part of blog post on her blog and then has a read more link to another site (the site she really wants you to visit). Seriously good blog. Learn from her.

I only have one minor peeve - I hate it when comments have to go through moderation before being posted. I do understand if you've had trouble from hecklers or spammers, but really they aren't that big of a problem. If you can bear it, make it as easy as possible for people to comment. I'd appreciate any readers' thoughts on this if you have them, guys.

Shannon's on the next step of blogging - building blog readership. Shannon, for such a tight blog, you should have a bigger following.  Because you're really busy at work and still working on your manuscript you may not have the time to focus on this yet, but when you're ready, here's some suggestions:
  • Participate in blogfests.
  • Run contests for followers. To enter they must tweet, facebook, or blog about your blog.
  • Ask the people you review for if you can do any joint promotions. You probably have contractual agreements prohibiting this, but if you are allowed to ever get people from those blogs to your blog, that's a huge way to increase your followings. Ways to do that would be, for an example, "If you enjoyed this movie, check out Shannonigans where I tell you five other movies you'd probably like." Another good one would be to say "For a meal that would go good with this wine, visit Shannonigans" and have a good recipe there. Make sense? You could actually do that last one just within your blog. At the end of a recipe post or a wine post, put a cross-reference link from your own blog to a a wine or recipe to go with it.
  • Search your peeps out. Where do wine lovers visit on the internet? What do movie-goers read? Who wants amazing recipes? Find those blogs and leave comments that always include your website address. When possible, say things like, "I do a wine review on my website; I hope you check it out sometime." 
  • Have guests. Guest bloggers can really build your numbers. Invite people from those blogs you found that your peeps frequent to post. 
  • Steal followers. It's not really stealing, but what I mean is go to those blogs that have the people you know would love your blog and get them to follow you. Like if I were going to "steal" your followers, I'd start clicking on pics in your follower box and first, follow their blogs, and second, comment on their blogs with your website address.
Okay, this isn't much, but is it helpful? What do you think readers? Any thoughts/comments/suggestions for Shannon?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesday Drop-In

I'm here on a Tuesday to direct you to a great 2 part article about author marketing on The Bookshelf Muse featuring Janice Hardy. Check it out.

And how goes NaNo for you all? I am not faring that well on the word count, but I'm still enjoying myself! Besides, did you notice I have a NaNo rebel badge? That's because I started before November. I really want to finish this book I'm working on. I have about 30,000 words to go. Wish me luck!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Blog Critique: Martine Svanevik

Blog Critique Day: In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

Today's blog comes from Norwegian Martine Svanevik's blog Nascent Novelist. Take a look.

Martine, this critique is going to be short and sweet because we only have a few suggestions. First I have to say you are our first wordpress blog. I'm not very savvy when it comes to wordpress but I believe it is generally easier to customize than blogger so hopefully any suggestions we make are compatible.

Overall Look: Your site is clean and straight forward, which is awesome. But it's also really plain. We need some color. Changing the background gray to a bolder color instead of a neutral color could make a major difference. Or you could change the color of the post section so that it pops a little more from the top white section. Another option would be to add a colored header. Just something to attract the eye.

Title: I always love alliteration so yay there. But I also want to see your name in a prominent place. I should see Martine from just a quick glance. You are the most important part of your blog, after all. If you don't want your name in your title (my first choice) then put it in a subtitle. "Featuring the adventures of Martine Svanevik" underneath your blog title is all you need.

Contact Information: This is very important yet it's missing. Give us a page with your contact info or at least a  box in your sidebar. This should include a valid email if nothing else.

Social Media: I know you are on Twitter - I'm following you! And you tell us in your blog. So why not put your social media links on your side bar?

Writing Samples: From your profile box I get that you might be published but I don't see any bio about your work. Give us a list of where your writing has been featured and/or samples of your work. Another page is a great place for this.

Search Box: I love it when blogs have the search box so readers can search for topics. If I love a blog, I'll often search for particular topics. Or I might remember that I read a great post on a blog and when I go back I want to be able to find it easily.

I don't know who you are: I don't know what type of writing you do and I don't know the message of your blog without reading all your posts. Add a few lines in your profile box or in a subtitle. Is your blog about your daily life? Is it about writing? Is it about your adventures? I'm not sure. Tell us.

Follow: I don't follow people by email. I hate it. I get too many emails as it is. I follow things through my Google Reader or through GoogleFriendConnect. I like to hit the follow button on blogs I read. It's like a personal vote. Do you have a way to add this in wordpress? Maybe not everyone agrees with this. I"d be interested in hearing feedback.

So there you go, Martine. Like I said, not much we suggest to change, but I think these things could make a big difference on your blog. Great job, by the way! You are obviously very dedicated and consistent. Keep it up!

Any thoughts, readers? Please share!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Saturday Savvy Sensation: Stina Lindenblatt

The first awesome thing about today's Savvy Sensation is her name: Stina. Isn't it groovy? And that's not all. Stina is a dedicated and community-oriented blogger. Not only does she have her own site but she's a major contributor of the Query Tracker blog, a blog that I included on The Write Advice Facebook page because of its awesomeness (you've "liked" our Facebook page, haven't you? No pressure :) Anyway, enough lead up, here is the amazing Stina Lindenblatt to tell you about her grooviness herself:

Who are you (what do you write, what are your personal stats)?
I write YA novels involving danger, suspense, and hot make out sessions. I prefer the complexity of novels, which is my way of saying I don’t write short stories and novellas.

Where can we find you online (blog, twitter, facebook, etc.)?
My favorite forms of social media are blogging and tweeting. I’m on Facebook, but I don’t use it very often (for now).

I can be found on my blog, Seeing Creative ( and I’m a member of the blog team (

I enjoy Twitter (, but I’m a little lazy when it comes to using it. And it’s too easy to spend time on it instead of writing. I have to make sure I get my priorities straight.

When did you begin your online platform building?
I began blogging in 2008, after hearing that writers should blog. I knew nothing about doing it. I didn’t even follow any blogs at the time. But I borrowed Blogging for Dummies from the library, and read it on the loooooong car ride to visit my in laws that summer. When I got back home, I had a vague idea what I would do: photography tips for teens. It made sense since I wrote YA novels.

Eventually I began to write about other topics too—mostly things relating to writing. Then at some point, I ended up creating photography posts that show a connection between a photography tip and writing (for example, juxtaposition).

What is your message, if any (is your blog about anything specific, for example)?
Mostly I blog about writing, photography, books, and anything publishing related.

How have you built your followers? What have you done that has been the most successful?
At the beginning of last year, someone left a comment on my blog asking how she could follow me. At that point, I had fourteen followers (who occasionally left comments). Turns out when I had changed my blog design, the “follow” button had vanished, and since I didn’t have a follower widget, no one could follow me. So I added both that widget and the ‘subscribe via email’ widget to my blog. I actually have more people following me via email than through the follower widget.

The other thing I did was join forces with a fellow blogger and had a giveaway. It worked wonders. By the time the contest closed two weeks later, I had 200 new followers. This was achieved by checking out the blogs of those who left comments on blogs I followed. I then followed the blogs that interested me and commented on them. I’m now friends with a lot of the bloggers from those early days—including the winners of my blog giveaway.

What have you done that has failed?
I guess that would go back to when I started blogging. I didn’t check out other people’s blogs or leave comments. But this was when I didn’t have much time in my day (all my kids were young at the time), so what little time I did have was spent working on my novel. Otherwise, nothing has really failed. Even when I go away on vacation, I come back to new followers. It’s really cool. *grins*

How much time do you spend blogging? Reading blogs? Commenting on blogs?
This is the scary part. I read blogs and comment Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 5:00 to 7:00 am (before my kids get up for school). I then spend from 5:00 to 6:00 pm (and sometimes later in the evening) responding to the comments left on my blog during the day (I try to comment back on everyone’s blog). Because of all the blogging love I’m getting (between 30-60+ comments per post), I often have to catch up on comments left during the night. I don’t mind the time spent. I love getting to know everyone, and I find the greatest posts this way for my Cool Links Friday.

What else should we know about you?
I spent eight years as a pharmaceutical sale rep, so I understand the power of social networking.  It also means I understand how business works, which makes the rejection side of publishing easier to handle. I have a Master’s of Science degree in exercise biological sciences (with a special interest in energy metabolism). Believe or not, this has been extremely useful when it comes to blogging and writing.

Any additional advice for our readers?
Be yourself. Check out blogs you love. Figure out why you love them. But at the end of the day, you still need to be true to yourself. If you aren’t, people will see it and won’t be interested in what you have to say.

What makes you unique?
I have an accent that most people struggle to place. I was born in England, but have lived in Texas, Canada, and Finland (my mother is Finnish). Most people guess I’m either from Australia or New Zealand. The closest I’ve come to New Zealand is watching Lord of the Rings, but I’d love to visit there someday. The other thing that makes me unique is I run to brainstorm and solve plot problems. I’ve even been known to run with a pen and write notes on my body so I don’t forget my ideas.

Thanks for having me on your blog, Laura. I’ve enjoyed it. And I especially enjoyed reading the previous interviews. Most of the individuals are already my blogging friends. 

No, thank YOU, Stina. I really enjoyed reading your interview. It makes me remember I have to forgive myself for not being able to read and comment more on other blogs because my kids are still small. There is a time and season for everything, isn't there? And when my kidlets are older I can be cool and connected like you :) You are a shining example of savvy sensationalism. Thanks again!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Facebook Friday: Your Readers are on Facebook

For those of you who are not so fond of Facebook, I just wanted to share some statistics with you gathered from  Take a look at this graph:

That graph is telling you that 83% of people ages 18-29 who use the internet are on a social network. 70% of users ages 30-49. And most of those social network accounts are on Facebook:

Of adult Social Network users:

  • 73% have a Facebook account
  • 48% have a MySpace profile
  • 14% have an account on LinkedIn
  • 1% each on Yahoo, YouTube, Tagged, Flickr and
  • 10-12% are on “other” sites like Bebo, Last.FM, Digg, Blackplanet, Orkut, Hi5 and
Teens are on Facebook too:
  • 54% of teens ages 12-14 are on Facebook
  • Teens between the ages of 15-17 are on Facebook nearly 19.9 hours a week
Comparatively, only 19% of internet users are on Twitter. Take a look at this graph:

Your readers are on Facebook. If you are trying to reach them through Twitter, through blogs, they're somewhere else. Just sayin'.

Do these stats surprise you? Do they change your mind about social networking? I'm interested in your thoughts.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Blog Critique: Sher A. Hart

A Wednesday critique to try to keep up with the overwhelming requests I've had. In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. This time I got help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby). To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

Our blog comes from Sher A Hart who matches her catchy name with many punny statements.  Take a peek.

Sher, overall, we like your blog. It's clean, easy to read, easy on the eyes. The colors are soothing and you do an excellent job of using pictures to spice up your posts but not clutter them up.

But, as always, we have some suggestions, though not many:

  • Title and Message: You use your name! Love that. Major bonus points. But we are confused. Is your blog mostly directed to the fancies of a fantasy writer or to writing for right? You seem to have two messages. I would stick with the Fantasy Writer's Fancies and cut your subtitle. Maybe you could share more about your "write for right" on a separate page. Of course you could still include posts about writing for causes. Just don't make it your title unless every post is about writing for a cause. Also, the color of your title is a little hard to see. Maybe try black and a thicker font.
  • Background: Your background photo doesn't tell us a lot about who you are or what your blog is going to be about. We get the connection if your message is the "Fantasy Writer's Fancies" but it doesn't tie in at all to your write for a cause. This is fixed just by removing the subtitle.
  • Profile: It's too low. I'm glad you have your Google+ pic up high so we can see your face right away, but your profile is more important. It should be top on your sidebar. In fact, let's talk about just that....
  • Sidebar: Though your sidebar doesn't look cluttered, it seems there are a few things that are taking the wrong priority. I suggest the following order:
    • Profile
    • Welcome to Erth One
    • Followers
    • Subscribe to
    • Social Media 
    • Search Box (you don't have one, but you should)
    • Popular Posts
    • I'd lose the blog awards and the linky list (is that a current linky list?) If you really want to include them on your blog, move them to another page. Right now, though, your sidebar extends past your posts which is a no-no.
  • Facebook "like" box: it extends off your sidebar. You should be able to adjust the actual HTML code for this. Open up the box that has this code and change the "width" number to 250 instead of 450.
  • Captions on pictures: Tom doesn't like how your book covers have the titles above them because you can already see the title on the picture. I think it's a good idea, though, because it helps in search engine optimization. In fact, carry it further. Add the author's name.
Ok, that's all I got. What about you awesome readers? Any tips for Sher?
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