We build our house under a bunch of trees that were infested with wolf spiders. Those are about 3″ long but not fuzzy like tarantulas. After they put the roof on I went around with a flashlight and a hand vacuum and sucked ‘em all up, about 50 SPIDERS!!!
Then I went to empty the hand vac in the trash.
I opened it up and 50 FUCKING WOLF SPIDERS JUMPED OUT.
All over me.
I dropped the flashlight. It was dark. I couldn’t see. I could feel them crawling on me as I tried my best to brush them off as fast as I could. Little legs tickling their way up my arms and legs.
I thought they’d get smashed up in the vacuum. Nope!
One got in my ear, one almost got in my mouth – I may have been screaming at the time.
I’m thinking of a writing horror story, and trying to think of things that scare people or creep them out.
At 1:04am, on the 20th of August, after exactly 292 days or 41 weeks and 5 days of writing my first draft of my novel, I wrote those two long awaited words… ‘The End’.
I was in bed, in the dark, laptop on my knees, with my sleeping beauty of a wife next to me. I stared at the screen, the cursor still blinking… and the first word that came into my mind was, “oh.” I stared around our darkened room and my gaze fell upon my wife. I searched for signs she was stirring… I had just finished my novel, of course she would just wake up… wouldn’t she? This was a momentous occasion… But her light sleepy snuffles continued. I couldn’t wake her.
I turned back to the screen. The cursor was still blinking. I read the two words in the middle of my screen. My eyes widened, my…
I used to have a job where I drove around a lot. My wife would get in my car and wonder why I never listened to music, and it was because you can only hear the same five songs so many times before you go crazy. Satellite radio changed that, but my habits had been etched into stone pretty well by then, and there were shows I liked better than the abundance of crappy songs they played on the radio anyway.
I listened to a lot of talk radio. (I know, yawn. Hear me out.) Some was sports, some was politics, and some was just a guy in the afternoon here in Tampa who was kind of a loveable curmudgeon. He was Glenn Beck’s predecessor here, before Glenn Beck moved here but wasn’t world famous yet, if that tells you anything. I’m not sure it does. Anyway, this guy was about as nonBeck as you could get. He told stories and all sorts of stuff. He was funny, but just as often he’d rip a caller to shreds. He was interesting, though, almost no matter what he did. I listened to him on and off for years.
One thing he said that I’ll never forget is some huge number of listeners will tune in every day but never call. Other talk radio guys have mentioned that over the years, and since they get data on how many callers they get to a show and how many listeners they have, they know it’s true. The same is true for readers of newspapers, and, to a lesser extent, readers of blogs.
I always knew that just because of how many ways it was reinforced over the years. It’s a really, really low percentage. So when you write your blog, don’t get discouraged by how few likes it gets or how fewer (?) replies and comments. It’s not like that. You can have lots of readers and not a lot of comments OR subscribers/followers OR likes. Don’t write your blog for that. Write for the reasons you want to or need to write your blog.
Another thing he said that resonated was a comment about honesty. Honesty connects. People sniff out a fake eventually. If you are talking five days a week for three hours LIVE on the radio, listeners will remember if you are inconsistent. That has been echoed time and time again in other media and it’s worth repeating here. Your blog is YOU, not your book. Readers come here to interact with you, and if you’re being phony, they will figure it out.
WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU
This applies a little differently to your books. Your book is you, but it’s not. You aren’t a murderer, or a sex maniac, or an alien from planet Zena, but you may have to play one in your book – and that stuff’s all made up. Hopefully. Especially the murderer stuff. (If not, feel free to unsubscribe now. Best wishes! Happy travels! Hope I didn’t piss you off! I live in Seattle.)
Conversely, your book is you. It’s a visualization of your thoughts and ideas, what you thought was interesting, sure, but also things you think are compelling enough to tell others about. One of the most commented-on characters in my romantic comedy – which has a LOT of hilarious and bawdy scenes – is the role of the MC’s child, a five-year-old. She’s not in any of the sexy scenes, of course, but she says and does cute things that a large number of readers connect with because they have or have had children that age. They know how kids react to things, and what kinds of things kids that age say. I find her interesting, so readers do. (I write her well. That helps.)
That’s part of being true and real. The MC has a kid and the kid is affected by what the MC does, but they are also a loving family, and that affects the story when we’re introducing them to the reader.
(Read two sample chapters of Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure HERE)
Do not deny yourself to your reader. That’s a mistake.
You’re an interesting person who had the guts to write down your heart and put it out there for people to step on and laugh at – or to applaud. With blogs, there can be lots of readers and little or no applause for loooooong spans of time. Don’t worry about that.
There will be more applause if you’re honest and truthful. Remember that.
But there can’t be any if you aren’t in the arena at all.
Keep after it. It’s a slow process, but you’ll get there. Write and blog about what interests you and what’s happening to you, so that one day when a reader finds you, he or she has lots and lots of interesting stuff to read about you, just like you’d like to have when you discover somebody. Then they’ll feel as though they know you. That’s connecting. They’ll like your posts and then occasionally comment on them, and maybe even one day buy your books. And that’s all nice. But the farmer who plants a seed today with the intention of picking crops tomorrow and taking them to market is in for a big disappointment.
And things that are forced or fake aren’t going to bear much fruit anyway.
SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! Amuse and delight your friends! See that “F” and “T” button down below? Click them. Put on your glasses. There they are.
A few months ago, I sent my last query letter to an agent. I knew I wanted to get my work out there, but it was clear as day it wouldn’t be through the traditional way, so I focused on indie publishing.
As time passed, I got more and more excited about publishing my work on my own terms. I’m prepping myself for releasing my books sometime around September/November, and it’s been an amazing experience (working with editors, doing marketing courses, engaging with readers, growing a platform, I’m loving it.)
Today, though, I received one last rejection letter (remember my last query? Yup!)
It was a really nice form rejection, mind you, but still a rejection. And I couldn’t be happier.
See, today is also the day I beat my mailing list’s subscriber record.
Ever since I started giving out free stories for e-mail subscribers, I’ve been receiving encouraging e-mails…
By the time I had the MS done for my first book, it was so long it could’ve been two books – so I cut it in half and released book 2 shortly after book 1. (It/they were a compilation of vignettes about family humor so I could do that.) Book 3 followed shortly thereafter, with several short stories/novellas published in between, all in the same theme. I should mention book 1 sold NO copies for about 6 months while I waited for Oprah to call learned about having a nice, professional looking cover (mine was a homemade disaster) and while I tried my hand at promotions. Most promotion success came from asking other authors what worked for them, and then doing that. I’ll be doing that for you, too. (Because abyss = bad. And you will fall into the abyss without someone to guide you around it. Yes you will.)
More titles = GOOD
After about 6 titles (not books, per se) in a year, any time I ran an ad or promoted one book, the others would get a smattering of sales, too.
So, more titles was a big factor for me. Over the following year I did 3 cookbooks, 3 illustrated children’s book, and 3 novels, one of which was released; the other two needed some help and will be released in the next six months. This was mainly to get titles out under my name, and it worked. Rarely did a day go by with no sales, as in, I almost always had nice sales every day, even when I wasn’t promoting a book – and with that many titles, I was always promoting a book. (Some good ads are as cheap as $25, too!)
I also figured out Twitter and this blog and some other stuff. Not Pinterest. Fuck that nonsense for now. And Snapchat, too – for now. But Instagram, I’m coming for you. Meanwhile, Facebook suffered, so there was a cost to my education, as there always is, but FB is easy to re-master and I will return to dominate it once again, don’t worry.
This year, 2015, I focused more on writing, and sales have dropped as I promoted less, but the quality of the writing has increased drastically and I’m not the rookie I was.
Nether are any of you.
With time and experience we’ve all become better writers and marketers and etc. That all goes into the equation, but the main driver is MORE BOOKS, get more titles out under your name. (That’s not two points, it’s one point clarified; short stories are “books” or titles).
It has benefitted me greatly that when somebody bought one book and liked it, there was another one for them to buy. Publish your short stories. Publish your poetry. Publish your favorite amateur photographs. This will all be explained in detail in the marketing books, trust me, and has been shared with a few trusted friends, but I’ll go in depth on all that another time because that wasn’t the goal of this post.
Give your fans something to read while you write the next novel. It all adds up. Blogs can do that.
Good Blogs = GOOD; Bad blogs = ???
Those were the dark times.
Not because I thought I was a failure; (I needed to go WAY farther into my writing career successes to start thinking I was a failure on occasion). It was a dark time because I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. Or, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
I didn’t know where to go for help.
You, dear reader, won’t have that problem. This blog is ABYSS AVOIDANCE.
When I read those other blogs and I read the struggles of other authors, I say THANK GOD I’M NOT THERE ANYMORE – and thank God I’ll steer you away from making the same mistakes. They’ve been pushing the same book for three years, folks. I’ve already told you (above) why that doesn’t work, or why what I did works better. They don’t get that aspect of the business. They needed to get book 2 out there or at least written, but they seem to say, I’ve pushed book 1 as far as I can, time to start working on book 2. (I’m not picking on these authors or their blogs, mind you; I subscribed to some of the good ones and avoided the bad ones, but almost all of them were well written.)
You won’t make that mistake, and if you can only put out one title every 3 years (and everyone can do more than that, I assure you), I’ll help set proper expectations for you. Good ones, optimistic ones, but achievable ones.
I don’t look down on those bloggers in the dark. I just can’t save them all. But like the little girl who saw a storm had washed thousands of starfish onto the beach where they were dying in the sun, I can save each one I pick up and put back in the water, and that will create group of people who I can help promote and who can help promote me.
The best part is, if you’ve been reading this blog for the last 6 months or so, I didn’t tell you anything new. If you’ve just joined us, hang on cos it’s gonna start to be a wild ride.
Who was it that said, “I went out into the world and I saw, and I learned that there were many kingdoms to conquer, and I decide to conquer them.”
Oh yeah – me.
I’ll conquer it all – with your help, cos you’ll be right there with me.
UPDATE, 8/23/2015 10:30am:
Yep, it was me. (Alexander cried cos he had nothing left to conquer.)
I’ve been reading a lot of other authors’ blogs lately. Not because they’re good, although LOTS are, and not to make myself feel better about this blog, although mine is definitely better than some of what I’ve been reading.
I read them to learn.
The suffering writers of these blogs I’ve been reading will, on occasion, mention book sales. 50 sales in a month is the average for people who are working their butt off and that means half of them are selling less than that.
Trust me, I’d have been happy as hell to have had 50 sales in ANY of my first six months. I didn’t have 50 total over my first six months, combined. ZERO is an exaggeration but it’s close.
When I started putting books out I asked other authors what worked for them as far as marketing, etc. Many were happy to give me advice, and I am happy to share that advice with you. Yes, it’s all going to find its way into a How To Market EBooks trilogy and Write Better Books – because that’s what I do. I write and sell books. But you’re getting that information for free right now, aren’t you, smartie!
Here’s some mistakes I see in unsuccessful blogs. They have no followers (well, that’s a chicken and the egg thing) and they have no/few comments. That indicates that they don’t write interesting content OR they don’t know how to attract people to their blog.
My blog had very few followers for about two years. Now, we add new followers to the blog every day. I’ve probably added 70 or more in the last 30 days. More on that later; I didn’t say that to brag. (Okay, a little.)
I can guarantee these bloggers don’t track their stats. They don’t know what traffic the blog gets on given days, and when they promote it on Twitter they don’t know what works and what doesn’t. (Just FYI, I achieved President’s Circle with two different Fortune 500 companies, so I tend to analyze stuff. This is me looking at writer stuff through that business lens.)
I’m not saying I’ve mastered these things, I’m saying I may be a step or two higher on the ladder than most of you are, and it looks like a mountain from there but from here it looks easy-peasy – but only because I languished in the abyss that I intend to save you from.
I’m nice that way.
And if you are a little higher on the ladder than me in a certain area, feel free to edumacate the rest of us, okay? (That’s a made up word from an old joke.) I can get you to this level while we work as a team to get us all to the next one. Wouldn’t it be great to have a hundred successful author friends helping me become more successful? Well, the best way I know to achieve that is to help 100 other author friends becomesuccessful. That’s what’s in it for me, see?
(If you want to know a little more about my sad, sad journey, click HERE. It’s sad, but it has a happy ending.)
Okay, okay! Enough preamble! What do we do? Sorry. I’m a writer. I get wordy.
Social Media, kinda
When you looked at Twitter and asked how to get more followers, Twitterites said to find people with the same interests as you and follow them. That same theory applies to blogs. In fact, just about every rule for one form of social media applies to every type of social media AND to blogs.
If somebody follows your blog, follow their blog in return – within reason. This blog is currently designed to help authors, and people write about all sorts of things. Puppies? Cool. Photography? Sure. Whips and chains? Um, I’ll be honest, I’ll probably have a peek but I’m not going to be a regular visitor or comment much because…
It takes about 1 minute to read and like a typical blog post, maybe two or three minutes. (If it takes longer, upgrade to Chrome.) That means you could read and like about 10 blogs in about 20 minutes, and yes you do have that kind of time. Now, whether you have it once a week or once a month or every day, that’s up to you. My advice? Do it every evening after dinner for two weeks and see the results. You’ll be happy.
HOW to comment
When you comment, make it a worthwhile comment. There are a few blogs on which I always comment at length. Some of you have been the recipient of such comments. I never asked if it was okay and I probably should have, but each lengthy comment I made on YOUR blog was in fact – ready? – an audition for MY blog to YOUR readers! If your readers saw my comment, maybe they liked it enough to click over to my site and read some more of my stuff there, and as a result, follow my blog.
(So maybe, just maybe, you should find and follow some really popular blogs even if they are boring as hell, if they have lots of readers and commenters. Just a thought. Check out anything on HuffPO, a site I generally hate but people read it and there are good popular blogs there.)
Now, here are the rules for that. The person’s blog you’re commenting on should already be a friend if you’re going to do this. They don’t have to approve your comment. Second, the comment should be an added value to the readers of that blog, not a damned spam for your own blog. Don’t say “I’m awesome and here’s my link.” Instead, if they are talking about something funny, ADD to the humor with a funny, relevant anecdote of your own that their readers will enjoy. That way, the blog owner gets a benefit from your comment. Golden rule, right? You don’t want spammers; don’t be one. I don’t think I ever posted my blog link. It’s not necessary because…
And network through your network. For example, I mostly follow and comment on WordPress blogs. Anyone there can follow me with a single click when I make an interesting comment. It doesn’t get any easier than that, and while I have nothing against other blog platforms, if I have to jump through a bunch of hoops to subscribe to you, odds are I’m not gonna do it.
Occasionally check your stats and see how you’re doing. That means see what works and do more of it. Post on big days for blog traffic, largely Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday, depending on what you’re posting about, and…
Talk about your blog – the right way
Tell people about your amazing blog post on your other social media sites. This is both harder and easier than you think. For a while, I had my Twitter feed post automatically to my Facebook page. You can do that but don’t tweet too much or FB fans will start to turn away. I stopped doing that and maybe I should restart, I’m not sure, but I am ALWAYS checking my stats so I can quit stumbling around in the dark and get where I wanna be. That is both too boring and too long of a topic to get into here but if you ask me, I’ll explain it. I’m nice that way. (My new Canadian friend – yes, you, New Brunswick – is in awe about how helpful I am. People who have known me a while still find me helpful, but occasionally get tired of me asking for shit, too. I’m no saint. “Waaahhh! Help me write a synopsis.” You’ve seen it. They help. We’ve all become friends. That’s part of this deal. You’ll need a favor, you’ll give a favor. Cue The Godfather music.) And when I learn something, why I post it here for all of you, don’t I?
Okay, where was I?
Oh, other social media sites.
Yeah, so when I write an amazing blog post, I tweet about it with a TinyURL link (so it fits in 140 characters). Wait, I have NO blog readers AND I have NO Twitter followers. Yeah, we were all there once. Like I said, follow people with similar interests and make interesting contributions to the conversation and soon enough you’ll have both. Amplify that by posting your blog onto Facebook and by sending out a popular Instagram link with a cute picture of your dog (my friend Katie’s dog – she’s the photographer friend mentioned in Poggibonsi (sorry, inside info) – her dog has like 20,000 Twitter followers. All she does is post pics of him doing regular dog stuff. But that works if you’re writing about dogs. The rest of us have to be a little more creative.)
Since I scan my Twitter stats, I take the day’s popular tweet and send it to Instagram, using the same hashtags. That tales less than a minute. You have that time. You have a minute, trust me.
Occasionally I’ll take and post a pic while we’re out and about, usually of my kid, but maybe of a hot air balloon or an amazing dock in the keys where dolphins were swimming right up to us. Cos I do interesting stuff – and so do you! (That Sea World picture of my kid with the dolphin? It got like 15,000 RTs, No shit. Crazy. It was worth the harassment from the haters.) My local friends would not think a picture of my kid swimming in our pool was a big deal, but your readers and followers want to get to know you, and hey, when it’s 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) in Colorado Springs or Prince Edward Island, they’ll notice you’re still swimming at Thanksgiving. Tease them, and let them tease you back. Have fun. Act like friends. Yes, on your blog. Why? Because…
Comments matter! More = better
A “Great post, thanks for sharing” comment on somebody’s blog is nice. It helps – a little. I do it all the time and so should you. It takes just a few seconds. But some witty banter goes a long way. Look at that post where I was working on the blurb. It’s one of my most read posts because we were having fun. And don’t take yourself too seriously. Let the OTHER people have the spotlight on your stage. That’s positive encouragement, and people love it. You’ll want to…
Say THANK YOU!
Each commenter gets rewarded by you for playing Reply! That also only takes a moment, but most readers don’t comment at all. They’re intimidated, so when they do, reward them for it. Thank them. Add on to their line of thought. Once they do it a first time, they are much more likely to do it again, and that means…
MORE COMMENTS = more popular, more attention, more everything.
People want to do what other people do. Most readers don’t want to post at all, and they damned sure don’t want to be the first one. If you have ten comments (with nice, happy, encouraging thank you’s) they’re less intimidated. If you have a hundred, that starts to be a top post when people search for topics – and the search engines are your friend, my friend. But baby steps. Walk before you run or you will get overwhelmed quickly. Take on one new thing every two weeks or maybe just once a month until you’re comfortable with it.
So you FOR SURE want to post on your other author friend’s blog posts when they come out – Golden Rule. Don’t be afraid to ask them/remind them/beg them to post on yours. I often mention my friends in my posts because it shows a fun, friendly demeanor here on the blog, and I have always found that readers sense that camaraderie and enjoy it; they want to be part of it.
That’s what you want, too!
Yeah, it’s a lot. There’s more, too. But ya gotta start somewhere. Start by following me. One last tip: ASKa question that encourages readers to make a comment.
What do YOU do to increase your blog traffic and avoid the abyss?
Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Send it as a comment to any post or hit the Contact Me button and, you know, contact me. I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends, too.)
FOLLOW ME! I’m this helpful and funny all the time. Probably. Don’t miss another valuable bauble that falls from my fingertips. You read this far; you may actually need this stuff. SUBSCRIBE/FOLLOW TODAY (click the follow “Follow” button, above) and if you send me your email through the Contact Me button I’ll send you a free copy of my amazingly cute book “The Short Years” plus we’ll probably become friends and start hanging out and stuff.
If you benefit from this blog, share it with your friends!
Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure” – yeah, we know. We tried to convince him to change that title. He’s sticking with it. Check out his other works HERE and check back often for interesting stuff.
We just got back from a week in the sunshine state and though the holiday was fantastic, a long-hidden belief of mine was affirmed: theme parks are evil. To celebate my hatred of all things chaotic, overpriced and soulless, we decided to spend our last day of vacation at a popular theme park (Hint: Walt Disney is the devil).
Let’s backtrack. I spent a week at Disney when our boys were younger. I overdosed on Day 3 didn’t enjoy it. I am terrified of rides. I have been known to stab people get fidgety in line ups and I hate paying $25 for a hot dog. I hate hot dogs too. However, since then I’ve become more patient and adventurous. #noihaven’t.
So, in a selfless act, I put on my big girl thong and led my clan to our demise the park’s gate. I ignored the hoardes of people rushing past us..in the other direction. As