Friday, September 16, 2011

The Plan - Part 3: The Blog and the Future

This is the third part (or is the the fourth?) of a series of posts on my Big Plan For Everything In My Career. But the series was inspired by somebody asking me if I promote my books and how.

That question has no simple answer, but if it did, the quick summary of what I've said so far is this:

No. ... In this modern age of the internet, old-fashioned promotion is dead. Your brand and your body of work IS your promotion. So that's what I'm working on.

So far I've talked about identifying my brand or style ("Who am I?"); I don't think it was a very good post, because I kinda talked around the edges, but I had fun with the pictures. Then I talked about my writing plans.

Now I'm going to talk about Blogging.

Blogging Is Writing Too

A lot of writers see blogging as a form of social networking, or other promotional activity. They blog with a purpose -- they're building a platform, or "internet presence."

And that's actually a very good idea. It's an especially good idea if you are using it as a part of a major social networking and marketing strategy.

But I'm not doing major social networking and marketing. My strategy is writing, not marketing. And blogging is writing.

I had something more complicated to say, but it comes down to that: Blogging is writing and writing is what I do. And what I want people to know me for. And that makes it a part of my brand.

Blogging is the one "marketing" type activity that I go at full throttle right now, but not as a marketing activity. I do it because my blog is a part of my body of work. It's a product, like the rest of my work. It's not formal. It's free. I don't worry about typos or whether I blather on too much....

But it is a product.

And unlike most of my series, there's a lot of material here. It's mature. I have nearly half a million words sunk into this blog. And it's not my first blog.

So when it comes to marketing, what I market is my blog. Here are the strategies I'm using now:

1.) Content -- On the internet, content is king. Google loves good, mature, steady content. It makes it easier to judge a site so they can guide the right readers to it.

  • I try to keep the content interesting and relevant to my work and the interests of the audience for that work.
  • I tell jokes, and anecdotes, and post videos. And I'll get back to posting stories soon.
  • When I talk about writing, I try to go deeper into storytelling in a universal way whenever possible. Things of interest to readers as much as to writers.
  • I am my brand, this is a blog about my writer's journey. I talk about me a lot. This may or may not be wise marketing, but it it what it is.

2.) Art -- okay, this is also content. I am going to write more about covers and illustration. I love to read about that stuff myself, and I've got to assume that people who like the same kinds of things I do like illustration.

And as I said, a look is a part of branding. I decided that I will do most of my covers myself, with the idea of creating a visual style. I have only begun to develop that style, and a blog is a great place to play.

3.) Social Media - I don't use social media specifically as a promotion tool for the blog, except maybe Twitter, where I announce posts and publications. But I do comment on other blogs as a part of human networking. I like to read blogs, and I comment on them. I try to only comment thoughtfully. (Frankly, I don't have time to leave spam on every blog I read.) Since I've given up forums, I want to do this more.

I also lurk and occasionally post on a couple of Yahoo groups. And I like Crimespace, but I forget it's there, so I don't use it much.

As for the other types of social media (Goodreads, Shelfari, even -shudder- Facebook), I set up an account, but I don't use them. I may when I've done that whole filling the well thing.

I love Twitter, but I love it as a news source, and not as a social networking site. (It was designed for "microblogging" and that's what I love about it.)

All of these, though, lead people to my blog.

4.) Interviews - Because my blog is about my personal journey, the usual kinds of guest posts don't quite fit. So instead I interview writers about their characters. This gives me a break from daily posting, but it also brings in some fresh air from outside and can bring in new readers who are interested in that writer.

5.) Advertising - I use Project Wonderful to find interesting little websites to support. Some of those sites bring readers to my blog, others just give me a sense of satisfaction that I encouraged one more quirky webcomic to continue publishing. Some of my favorites drift up out of my price range, but that's okay. I like to see them succeed.

I probably do other things which I don't even think about, but that's kind of the point. In this New World Of Search Algorithms, the mantra is "Be You, And Your Audience Will Find You."

Sometime In The Murky Future...

When I feel my body of work is mature, when I think that anyone coming across my stuff for the first time will be able to find a sensible whole, when I have books published that a new customer can spend a lot of money in one go, THEN I might start some real marketing.

The sort things I will and won't be doing:

  • Guest Posting and Blog Tours: Absolutely. Blogging is writing. Spread that footprint wider, baby.
  • Professional Reviewers: Sure, when I feel the body of work is ready, I will start preparing press releases and approach book bloggers and reviewers in a serious and professional manner -- both independent and those associated with a magazine or newspaper.
  • Trading reviews with other writers: No.
  • Soliciting reviews from anybody I can bribe to listen: No.
  • Giving away free books: Absolutely. Already do that sometimes.
  • Tagging: You've got to be kidding me. I HATE tagging exchanges. HATE them, I tell yuh. Tags are supposed to be natural responses by readers. You know, people who have actually READ the book.
  • Fill out the fun info forms on Shelfari: Love to. Mean to do it now, but I don't have time.
  • Spend time on Goodreads: Probably.
  • Worry about keeping up with the competition: No.
  • Worry about pricing: No.
  • Run sales: Probably.
  • Advertise: Certain books in certain venues, sure.

Well, that's it for my big plans for the foreseeable future, and beyond. Plans always change, of course. New opportunities come up. Things you expected to do well don't, and things you expected to flop do well. You fall in love with a different story. You adjust course.

Saturday afternoon I'll post the week in review, and a preview of coming posts. Maybe Monday I'll finish this book... or maybe not.

See you in the funny papers.

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