Halloween is tonight, and we will be hauling an adorable 6-year-old witch over to a friend’s neighborhood to go Trick or Treating. My wife will be dressed up as a witch also, this year.
Me, I don’t dress up.
I’m not sure when that ended. High school?
I dressed up in college a few times – there’s a pic of me as a white-faced vampire somewhere – but that was for parties. I don’t think I’ve dressed up for Halloween since then.
Some people – adults, I mean – dress up for Halloween. One friend has the whole family dressing up as Star Wars characters from the latest nonsucky Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens And Please Forget Jar Jar Binks – or whatever it was called.
No chance, George Lucas. Fool me once…
Anyway, the oldest child is going as Finn and the youngest is going as a very cute roly-poly robot guy named BB8 (not BBQ, I was admonished). Rey and Kylo Ren are also going to be represented by the parents. (Notice I didn’t say which character was my author friend, so as not to side one way or the other in this.) You are also thinking, “Gee Dan, you seem to know all the characters while espousing that you not having seen the movie.” Don’t be fooled. My friend told me what they were going as, I promptly forgot, and had to Google the movie characters for this post.
I can’t decide if it’s dorky or cool to dress up when you’re an adult.
Okay, it’s dorky – to folks who don’t dress up. Nerdy at best, but it depends on what your area does. If there’s a whole-family party, where everybody dresses up, then sure I’d dress up as some sexy as hell (I hope) vampire or something. Because vampires, Twilight aside, rock. Always have. They’re classic, all the way back to Bela Lugosi. Plus I look good in a cape.
But that’s me theorizing what I might do IF.
Right now, I’m a non-costumer. I’ll stroll alongside my kid with a flashlight, bug spray, and a camera, taking videos of the her going up to houses and getting candy, and preparing to carry her when she gets tired (which didn’t happen last year! A first!).
What about you? do you dress up for Halloween? And what do you go as?
I know you hate stats but… don’t let all the bar charts fool you, this is a good post. And funny. Read it.
If you don’t track what you’re doing, how do you know what’s working?
If writing books is what you wanna do, and creating a blog is part of your author platform, then occasionally you need to stop into the accounting office of your little book business and ask the number crunchers what the numbers say.
Might be good news!
Here, we have some stuff that looks impressive.
With TWO full months to go in 2016, I have already exceeded the numbers for all of 2015! Woo hoo, right?
Yes. You folks have gathered here in greater numbers than last year, and I’m happy about that. You are getting the writerly stuff you need, having fun reading the posts, and occasionally learning stuff. You are not really watching the videos, so I need to consider why I’m doing those, and maybe scale it back. Video is an investment, though, and it’s fun, and as you’ll see I can occasionally be a slow learner. (Blog 2013-2014) More on that in a sec.
First, some humble pie.
Does your blog not have enough readers? Like NONE?
No readers? I can help you with that. Do a guest blog post here – one that benefits my readers somehow – and you will get some folks over to your blog. (Maybe ask to do an interview or an author profile. I like to help other writers.)
I was in the no reader zone once. See? Look at 2013, also known as The Dark Time
In fairness, I started my blog in August of 2013 or thereabouts, and NOBODY read it for as long time.
A looooooooooooooooong time.
I published 35 posts in 2013, about 1 a week, and a lot of them sucked – but a lot of them were good!
Nobody cared. Well, they might have cared – if they had been reading the blog. Which they weren’t.
And they still weren’t in 2014!
God, that’s just awful. 210 visitors IN A WHOLE YEAR! (I get that in 2 days now!) I posted every week, so that’s 2 readers hanging around on average – and I’m pretty sure one of them was a spambot. The other was my wife, but she didn’t really read the blog.
I was ready to quit blogging!
I can savor the irony now, but back then I was a sad guy, blogging into the interwebs with no readers. I was ready to give up. Blogging was obviously not for me. Sound familiar? So even if your numbers suck, odds are they don’t suck as bad as my numbers did.
Yeah, we changed a few things in 2015 and things took off – and I’ve never really looked back.
Except for stuff like this, where I am obviously looking back.
Okay, so here’s what you wanna know. HOW DID YOU CHANGE? What did you do differently?
That’s all in my free marketing book, which you can get by subscribing to my newsletter, so go do that. The gist of it is, I read blogs every day, liked them, commented on them, followed them, and a fair number – about 1/3 of them – followed me back. I call that “sought” growth. (That’s Tip #1 for those of you skimming for the tips)
I also changed the titles of the posts to be like this one (using numbers and the hint of failure if you don’t read the post – Tip #2)
Simple changes. You can do that. The other stuff I changed is in the marketing book IN DETAIL so get it. Stuff like asking readers a question at the end of the post to get replies. It’s free cos I love you. (You can also search old posts here and see stuff like THIS and THIS)
Now, that will build quantity, but is that a quality fan base? Not really, unless they subscribe because they read you and see value.
If there was nothing but crap here, new visitors would have a look and move on. (That’s Tip #3)
Since they found value here (writing tips, entertainment, friendship, whatever) they stayed.
And since I look at what’s working and do more of it, I knew what to continue to do. Mostly, that was just be myself. Turns out I’m kinda charming. So are you. So you should be yourself on your blog. As in, if you are angry, be that! I like a good rant on occasion. If you are funny, be that. I love a good laugh. On this blog, I’m usually a helpful writer type who makes jokes and occasionally rants, but usually my personality comes through. (When it doesn’t, the readers don’t read, like, or share the post.)
Here’s the bad news:
Yeah, we seem to be headed in the WRONG DIRECTION.
Yeah, we’re UP over last year but we are trending downward this year. Maybe we did a lot of stuff last year over the holidays that carried over and is inflating this year’s total number, but based on this trend we’ll be going out of business soon.
Maybe there’s a seasonal trend, where we get more people over the holidays and they scale back over the summer, returning… very soon. (That would be nice.) Maybe I was reading more blogs last year (I was) and I’m reading fewer this year (I am) which means I was bringing in new friends last year faster than I am this year. That’s all true… but I have added 50+ subscribers this month as of the 25th, about 2 a day. Now, there were times last year when I added 20 a day, but there were times like that this year, too.
Getting all that?
This is my way of saying I’m not really sure what’s up.
Except, me being me, I do. Stay with me.
I’m adding readers every day, but I’m doing WAAAYYY fewer reading of new blogs this year. That means the growth is much more organic. People are finding me because I now have a reputation, WP occasionally highlights a post of mine in folks’ readers. (No idea how that happens. Magic elves, I think.) The content is there (a few years’ worth now) so when they come they can look around and find something related to whatever they need to know.
So we moved from “sought” growth by me, to organic growth – and that’s way better.
The downward trend, while disturbing, may simply be some of the “sought” growth folks leaving, meaning my blog audience is getting smaller but it’s becoming more pure. It’s better to have 100 loyal readers than 1000 who subscribe but don’t read or interact.
We’ve made friends here, and friends tend to be loyal, but this year we’ve shed a few folks who decided his wasn’t for them. They’ll be missed, but that’s life. Each year, we’ll shed some. Each year we’ll add some, too. The spectrum of audience evolves into a fan base.
Choose organic – it’s better for you!
Those who stayed are finding the information, comedy, and friendship they came for. That’s awesome. And after we let a little fluff out of the system, our numbers will climb in 2017 – organically, under the blog’s own power. It doesn’t get better than that. Remember: we did the other stuff to get to this stuff. (Tip #4)
Hey, why did you start a blog?
Why did I?
To help build my author platform to sell books. But if it’s not fun for you, it doesn’t work. (That’s Tip #5) The blog is fun for me. I went from blogging once a week in 2014 to blogging almost every day in 2016. More posts will get more readers. Hopefully we didn’t add posts and dilute content. I think we didn’t. Or did. One of those. The good one.
We tried new stuff, too. Videos. Story chapters. Writing challenges. Memes. Guest blog posts. Interviews. The stuff that caught on, we kept. The stuff that didn’t, we dropped.
We sought out your input for book stuff before we put out the book. (That was huge.)
So here’s the take away. Starting out, do what you gotta do. Check your numbers. (It doesn’t hurt. Honest.) See what works and do more of it; see what doesn’t work and do less. Interact. Have fun.
Video might need some time to take off, or it might need to go away. But it took two years for me to figure out what I was doing with blogging, so I’m going to keep doing videos for now.
And don’t put up too many posts with bar charts because readers tend to not like them. Thank you for reading this far. I will now take questions.
What are YOU doing to improve your blogging skills or grow your audience?
Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazingly great sci fi action thriller “The Navigators.” Click HERE to get your copy of The Navigators – FREE on Kindle Unlimited!
I had to go pick up my wife from the auto service center and I pulled out of the driveway and headed down my road. The car behind me flew by me over the speedbump yelling and ranting and raving. Apparently I had cut him off when I pulled out of my driveway.
The problem is, if he had been going the speed limit, I really could not have cut him off. But if he was speeding – which he apparently was – then maybe I cut him off.
Let’s say for the sake of argument that I cut him off.
Because I did.
It’s not like I was in such a big rush. My wife was going to be at the auto center for a while, but I didn’t want her to wait any longer than necessary.
This guy, on the other hand, was going speeds upwards of 35 miles an hour on a road where the limit is 25 and we have speed bumps that require you to go 15. So him and his big Wilford Brimley face and his big beer barrel belly and his big black pickup truck decided they didn’t want to play by the rules this morning. So when he got the end of the street and he couldn’t go anywhere – because, this being my street, I knew there would be tons of morning rush hour traffic on the main road and he would be waiting there for quite a while (therefore there’s no reason to speed on the street because you can’t get anywhere and when you get to the end) – I honked my horn at him.
For maybe five or six seconds, which seems like 30 minutes when it’s eight in the morning.
He didn’t like that too much.
He pulled across the street and jumped out of his car, hustling back over towards me to make sure I got an earful.
Now, since he was an old man with gray hair and a big belly and was kind of Wilford Brimley looking, I didn’t really want to get in a fight with him. I mean, can you imagine duking it out on the side of the road with the Quaker Oats guy over who went how fast over speed bumps? Come on!
Also, since he got out of his truck I could see he didn’t have a gun or anything, so I wasn’t really in fear for my life.
It’s been my experience that if somebody is going to yell at you, they have pretty much resigned themselves to yelling at you and not shooting you. (I could be wrong on that last part so don’t take that as a nugget of wisdom, just maybe good luck on my part.)
Anyway, after venting his rage on me for a few minutes and me venting mine on him, it was resolved that I cut him off because he was speeding and that he endangered the lives of every child on the street by driving excessively fast to a stop sign. Therefore negating his speeding and… I don’t know. Whatever. There really was no point.
And that’s the point. Road rage serves no purpose.
Except to have a great story and dammit I wish I had videoed it on my phone because he was out of control. But he was like an Ewok! He was a big gray teddy bear throwing a tantrum.
Anyway kids, don’t try this at home. I was wrong and so was he and that’s the lesson. Both people can be wrong.
Maybe next time both people can be smart. I can be a little more courteous and he can be a little more patient and neither one of us have to yell at anybody because next time somebody will probably get shot to death. Not by me. And probably not by him. But by the idiot we end up yelling at who actually has a gun and decides they’re not up for arguing this morning.