Showing posts with label Platform Building Tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Platform Building Tips. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Forsaking the Zone (Leah Lindeman guest post)


Silence permeates a musty-smelling library, shadows touched by flickers from candlelight. In the centre of this haven is a mahogany desk upon which sits leather-bound volumes. And the hunched over writer scribbles furiously; his ingenuity rolls through his tensed muscles. His masterpiece must be put into words.

Reality is that most of us fight to a gain a sense of peace and to be in a comfortable state when we write. Writing isn't about being comfortable; it's about forsaking our comfort zone.

Last year, Robert Lee Brewer challenged his participants to their build their social media platforms in one month. Many of the daily tasks I passed over because I was either too lazy, too busy, or too scared. However, I kept all the tasks I didn't do in my inbox. Just last month did I decide to revisit them, promising myself that I wouldn't provide an excuse for any lack of action.

Leah Lindeman, forsaking the comfort zone

RSS/E-mail
One of the tasks was to set up an RSS feed. When I viewed the instructions on Google, I was ready to abort my mission. Words such as HTML, feed burner, and RSS feed intimidated me. I am no computer genius. But I was determined to do something new, to get out of my comfort zone. I followed the steps slowly. 
When I finally saw the RSS feed symbol on my blog page, I was ecstatic. I went on to setting up an e-mail subscription link, as well. This small, brave step for me has given my blog the potential to attract even more followers; and I am now able to use my "expertise" to help my friends set up these important functions.

Try New Things
Another way I try to get out of my comfort zone is to try new things, discover new places. This correlates with the advice "write what you know." There are arguments for its antithesis: "Write what you don't know." I won't try to prove which point is better over than the other; however, there is merit in writing about what you do know. 
For example, I've gone bungee-jumping twice. This daredevil stunt doesn't have anything to do with writing directly. But if I ever were to write a scene in which my character free falls or feels a greater force than his own pulling him in a certain direction, I could insert a realistic feel into the scene, making it and my character even more compelling and relatable. Try something new; you will have a wide range of experiences from which to glean.

Editorial Calendar
For those of us who like to roll with the punches, setting up an editorial calendar is hard. We like to create order, but we may not like to work within order. The problem with being disorganized is that it's a gamble; our feelings are the basis for our progression toward our goals. Setting up an editorial calendar which highlights research dates, deadlines, blogging subjects, and more will ensure success most of the time. 
My editorial calendar mainly consists of which days are set apart for blogging and an idea to go with each of those days. As a result, I've been much more consistent with my blogging; and I've been gaining more followers and connecting with them. What used to be uncomfortable has now become comfortable.

The first step is usually the hardest to take. But if you jump outside your box, you will expand whilst you benefit others. For me, setting up an RSS feed, trying new things, and setting up an editorial calendar has helped me become a better writer. Get out of your comfort zone. In what ways can you become uncomfortable?
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Leah Lindeman was born in Montreal, Quebec. Throughout her childhood, she dabbled in different extracurricular activities such as ballet, piano lessons, and soccer. But writing became her one passion starting a few years ago. Wanting to become better, Leah enrolled in a writing correspondence course given by the Institute of Children's Literature. She graduated with honours and began working on her first novel. Presently, she is researching material for her second novel; and she is trying to conclude the finishing touches on the first. When Leah is not reading or writing, she's usually taking care of her home, her husband, and two children. Some of her hobbies include horseback riding, visiting with friends and family, and singing.
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Here are some previous guest posts:

Friday, January 18, 2013

3 Ways to Make Your Own Luck

The latest issue of Sprout magazine features an interview with yours truly. If you're not familiar with Sprout, it's an inspired and inspiring online magazine fun by Amanda Fall. Go check it out. Anyway, the first question Amanda asked was tied into how I went from unpaid intern to well-connected editor.

Confession time: I believe a lot of my success over the years has come from "lucky breaks." Even my unpaid internship position with the Writer's Digest Writing Community, it was a lucky break. Of course, I'm willing to take credit for hard work and taking advantage of opportunities, but many of my best opportunities found me, not the other way around. How did that happen?

Serendipity can play into making your own luck.


Three Keys to Make Your Own Luck


I've given this topic a lot of thought over the years, and then decided to tackle this subject after reading Nick Usborne's posts on catching lucky breaks around the end of 2012. Here are my three keys to how I make my own luck:
  • Experiment
  • Engage
  • Share
Three simple words that I'll explain more below, but these actions are responsible for all my luck.

Experiment


If I wanted to use more than one word, I might also say this key is "taking chances." For instance, I was exclusively an expert on publishing--as the editor of Writer's Market--before I started building a reputation as a poet.

My appearance at the Red Clay Writers Conference...


I still remember the meeting in which Writer's Digest magazine editors were trying to expand their site by offering editorial blogs. While many editors opted out of this "extra responsibility," I immediately saw an opportunity to share my rekindled love of poetry with the WritersDigest.com community. So I pitched Poetic Asides, and here's the funny part...

...my reputation was so entrenched as a publishing expert for fiction and nonfiction freelancers that I received some push back on the idea. In fact, the poetry blog was only accepted after I recruited then Poet's Market editor Nancy Breen as my co-blogger (quick aside: I was already friends with Nancy and lucky to have her as a resource in the beginning). The rest of my poetry luck is history.

I went on to be named Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere in 2010--hosting super successful poem-a-day challenges in April and November. I've been hosted as a featured poet at several events around the country, including the Austin International Poetry Festival (AIPF) and Poetry Hickory. My debut full-length collection, Solving the World's Problems, is due out from Press 53 on September 1.

Of course, there's more to that luck, which I'll get into below, but none of it would've happened if I didn't experiment by pitching and launching the Poetic Asides blog. Before that, I was receiving speaking opportunities as a publishing expert by absolutely zero opportunities in the poetry world.

...led to me being invited to the Blue Ridge Writers Conference...


Engage


Speaking of the Poetic Asides blog and the April PAD Challenge, the idea was simple enough: I would offer a prompt each day in April (along with my own attempt at the prompt) and ask others to write a poem too. I hoped to get some participation, but I really didn't know what to expect and even worried that only one or two people might show. But the poems came.

And came. And came. That first post is still up on the site, and there were nearly 300 comments. But it didn't end there. The response was so overwhelming through the whole month that I started sharing poetry prompts on Wednesdays and created a November poem-a-day challenge dedicated to crafting chapbooks of poems.

These are experiments that worked out, but I also truly feel they are an example of engagement. For instance, one way I've built traffic on My Name Is Not Bob is through challenges and shining the light on other bloggers and tweeps. I didn't ask for or expect anything in return, I just felt that engaging with others is the right way to do things.

This engagement has led to "lucky" opportunities, including invitations to read at poetry festivals and events. Those speaking opportunities led to face-to-face engagement opportunities that led to more speaking opportunities. For instance, I would've never been invited to Houston Poetry Fest "Out of Bounds" if I had not met Mary Margaret Carlisle at AIPF. My invitation to speak at the Blue Ridge Writers Conference came from speaking at the Red Clay Writers Conference and it (the BRWC) led to an opportunity to speak at Poetry Hickory.

...which opened up an opportunity to speak at Poetry Hickory.


I have so many similar examples, both online and in person, of engagement with others leading to lucky breaks and opportunities. These speaking opportunities weren't pursued by me; they were offered, because I was engaging with people--and they saw the opportunity for me to share my passion and experiences with their audience.

Share


There are many ways that sharing can lead to "lucky breaks." I mentioned Mary Margaret Carlisle above, and I met her at the Austin International Poetry Festival. She was a fellow featured poet, and we did a book swap--I'd recently self-published a limited edition chapbook of poems that have since sold out.

Without realizing it, my act of sharing set the wheels in motion for me to be invited as the feature for her Houston Poetry Fest "Out of Bounds" event--an event that raised money for me to come out, stay the night in Webster, sell some more chapbooks, and read my poetry before an engaged audience. I didn't expect anything to happen, but it did. And I've had other examples of this happening--without expectation on my part.

With Mary Margaret Carlisle at Austin International Poetry Festival.


Share your words, your thoughts, your ideas, and good things will happen. Don't spend all your time trying to trick people or get something tangible out of them. Trust that good works lead to good opportunities.

As one last example, one key reason the April PAD Challenge has been so successful from day one is that I shared my own example poem with the prompt. It's a way of showing that I'm in it with everyone else--writing horrible first drafts that more often than not never amount to anything. Sharing that vulnerable part of my writing process, I think, encourages others to then share--and we all benefit when that happens.

Have you experienced luck yourself? Or helped create luck for someone? Share your experiences below in the comments.

*****

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Check out some other recent Not Bob posts:


Thursday, January 10, 2013

What Are Blurbs? Do I Need Them For My Book?

Wow! So now that my debut full-length collection of poetry, Solving the World's Problems, has found a home with Press 53, I imagine more than a few of my Not Bob posts are going to deal with issues related to getting this collection to the printer and beyond. In this specific post, I want to talk about blurbs.

A good blurb can entice someone to learn more about a book.


What are blurbs?


Blurbs are those pesky little quotes on the front and back covers of books. For instance, the 2013 Writer's Market, which I edit, has one on the front cover from Sandra Beasley, author of Don't Kill the Birthday Girl, that reads, "To buy Writer's Market is to take charge of your publishing career. To give Writer's Market says 'I believe your voice needs to be heard.'"

Basically, they're endorsements for a book or author from a trusted source. They are recommendations.

Do I need a blurb for my book?


Recently, I engaged in a chat on Facebook about whether blurbs are even worth the time or effort of placing on a book. I mean, do they even affect book sales? Do potential readers even care?

Here's the thing about blurbs: It's going to be different for each reader. Some people will breeze past the blurbs without any notice; other people read everything on the front cover, back cover, and even introductions and forewords. But...

Book covers definitely sell books.


Attractive and professional-looking book covers sell books. Ugly and unprofessional-looking book covers can kill book sales. It's not fair to the manuscripts, but most readers really do judge books by their covers. (Sorry, I couldn't resist, but it's true!)

Blurbs enhance the professional look of a cover. Including blurbs from trusted sources adds an extra level of validation to a book. It might not seal the deal, but it might entice a potential reader to crack the cover and read the first page or two before deciding whether to buy the book.

And really, I'm pretty confident that blurbs don't harm book sales--unless it's really bad or inappropriate. However, if that's the case, the book is probably really bad and inappropriate as well, right?

How do I get blurbs for my book?


First, you can contact sources directly. In my case, I have a short list of poets who I'm planning to contact to see if they might be interested in viewing my manuscript. My first message will probably go something along the lines of, "Hey, you interested in taking a look at my manuscript and possibly providing a blurb for the cover?" No need to beat around the bush.

If the poets say, "Sure," I'll send along the manuscript with a deadline for when I need the blurbs back (probably padding the deadline a little--just in case). Hopefully, they'll love what they read and send me a nice sentence or three about my book.

Another source of blurbs might be from past mentions and accomplishments. In my case, I'm wondering whether to include past mentions--like in the November 2012 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, Samantha Reynolds wrote, "I have a poet crush on Robert Lee Brewer." Who wouldn't be interested in slapping that right on the front cover of a book? It says everything that a poet wants to hear!

What are your thoughts on blurbs? Do you think they're important? Do you (or would you) bother with them for your own book?

*****

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Create Your Writer Platform: The Key to Building an Audience, Selling More Books, and Finding Success as an Author
by Chuck Sambuchino

If you want a book that covers platform in all its variations, this is the title for you. Chuck Sambuchino is the author of humor titles such as How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack and Red Dog Blue Dog, but he's also behind Guide to Literary Agents and Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript. In other words, he's been there, done that, and lived to tell about it. Chuck covers social media, blogs, newsletters, public speaking, and more. Click the link above to check it out today.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Creativity Trumps Following the Rules (Guest Post From Ernie J. Zelinski)

Here's a guest post from Ernie J. Zelinski, which actually originated as a comment to a previous post about the business of publishing. I don't usually re-purpose comments that way, but I wanted to make sure everyone had a chance to read his thoughts.

Ernie Zelinski, author of The Joy of Not Working and other titles


Fact is social media is not even necessary to promote a book, even though so-called social media experts will be in total denial about this.

I am very successful as a self-published author. I have been in this game since 1989 (a true pioneer and not like a lot of the impostors out there) and making decent money at it ever since my first book was self-published.

Print Sales Are Not Dead


My How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free will sell about 9,000 copies on Amazon in its print edition this year. In fact, this title will likely sell the most copies this year in its print edition since it was first self-published in 2004. It has already sold a total of 15,000 copies and should reach 17,000 copies by the end of the year. (This proves that people who say "print is dead" are either lying of just plain brain dead.)

Yet my three Kindle titles have only sold 12 copies this month. Why does my How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free sell so well? Because I don't rely on social media. As marketing guru John Reese (who was the first person ever to make $1-million dollars in one day marketing on the Internet) says, Social media is vastly overrated.

Creativity Trumps Platform


I notice that true best-selling authors like Brendon Burchard, whose The Charge has sold 80,000 copies in its print edition in the last 8 months, don't rely on social media. They have much better and more creative ways to sell books. So do I.

I am amazed at the lack of true creativity and ingenuity in this world. People use the word "creativity" because it sounds nice. They have no sense of the meaning of the word, however. They certainly don't show it in their actions.

Years ago I cut copies of one of my books in half and mailed either the top half or the bottom half of them to corporations with a creative letter that said if they wanted to purchase the book, they had to purchase a minimum of 10. This promotion led to revenues of over $15,000.

I can give several more examples of my own "unique" creative book-marketing tactics that I have used to have my books sell over 750,000 copies worldwide but I won't simply because consultants such as Brendon Burchard and Joe Polish charge up to $3,500 an hour for their consulting and coaching.

Here is a quotation about creativity that also applies to creativity in book marketing:

"What Is Your WOW Factor?
This applies to both the service
that you provide to the world
and the way you market it.
Make it edgy, make it snappy,
and make it punchy.
Even make it raunchy — but
make it different!
Real different!"
— from Life's Secret Handbook

Social Media vs. E-mail


In short, a great author platform does not require any social media at all. You don't heve to be on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn to be more successful than 99.9 perent of authors regardless of what social media and book marketing experts tell you.

As John Reese said, "RSS, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, BLAH BLAH BLAH. Yes, those methods can generate leads. Yes, those methods can generate some sales. But time and time again little old e-mail marketing kicks their butts — by a long shot"

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Ernie J. Zelinski is an international best-selling author, speaker, and prosperity life coach who helps adventurous souls live prosperous and free. Ernie is the author of the international bestsellers The Joy of Not Working (over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages) and How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free (over 175,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages). Check out Ernie's two quotation websites Sensational Quotes for Smart People and the Retirement Quotes Cafe for more great quotations on a number of topics.

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If you have something important you'd like to share on the Not Bob blog, please don't hesitate to contact me by e-mail at robertleebrewer@gmail.com with the subject line: Not Bob Guest Post. Please include an idea or two you have for a guest post, your credentials, and how you think it fits in with this blog. The more specific you can be the better.

*****

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Check out these other helpful Not Bob posts:
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Create Your Writer Platform: The Key to Building an Audience, Selling More Books, and Finding Success as an Author
by Chuck Sambuchino

If you want a book that covers platform in all its variations, this is the title for you. Chuck Sambuchino is the author of humor titles such as How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack and Red Dog Blue Dog, but he's also behind Guide to Literary Agents and Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript. In other words, he's been there, done that, and lived to tell about it. Chuck covers social media, blogs, newsletters, public speaking, and more. Click the link above to check it out today.



Monday, November 12, 2012

Develop a Slogan to Help Your Author Platform

Over at Ad Age, Al Ries wrote a great piece on slogans in relation to political campaigns. Whether you voted for Obama or Romney, Ries shines the light on who had the better slogan--and why. (Click here to read the full article.)

The two main nuggets I got out of the article were:
  1. A good slogan cuts both ways. That is, a good slogan builds up an identity (person, company, etc.) while also defining how you're different than the competition. Using Obama's "Forward" slogan as the example, it implies that Obama wants to move forward while his competition wants to go backward. Politics aside (and whether you agree or disagree), that's what the slogan communicates.
  2. A good slogan communicates value. If you write cookbooks, your slogan should NOT be: Jane Doe, Cookbook Author. A more powerful slogan might be: Jane Doe, Helping the World Cook Better. Instead of Joe Smith, Thriller Author, try Joe Smith, Keeping Readers on the Edge of Their Seat.
Robert Lee Brewer, Helping Writers Succeed

 

Why Do Slogans Matter?


Writers have so much to worry about that I totally understand if they're wondering, "Why the heck should I care about slogans? Aren't those just for companies?"

Those are fair questions, but here's the thing: Once writers hang their shingles as freelance writers, that makes them businesses. Maybe just one employee. Maybe not super successful...just yet. But a business nonetheless. Still, why does a slogan matter?

For one, a slogan defines who writers are to their target audience--to literary agents, editors, book buyers, and ultimately readers. That's pretty important stuff.

Second, a slogan defines who writers are to themselves. It might seem like common sense, but most writers can't define themselves--especially in a way that explains their value--in fewer than 10 words. That's why developing a slogan is a super important exercise.

Incorporate Into Your Author Platform


Once you have a slogan that communicates value and cuts both ways, begin incorporating it into your platform building.
  • Use it--or something very similar--as the tagline on your blog and/or website.
  • Include it in the About Me sections of your social media profiles.
  • Put it on your business cards.
  • Include it in your e-mail signature.
  • Work the slogan into any other messaging you can, whether an e-newsletter or print stationery.

Use it and use it some more. Remember: Consistency is key in brand building, and that's exactly what an author platform: It's building your brand as an author. Now, get to work on your slogan.
 
*****

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Check out these other helpful Not Bob posts:
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And if you want a way to improve make a super investment in your author platform, check out the latest offering from Writer's Digest: Author Platform Consultations. There are three different levels--from a basic package (that is anything but basic) to an 8-week program that involves 30-minute consultations each week. Click here to learn more.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

3 Reasons Why SEO Matters: Improve Search Engine Rankings

This is why SEO matters: If you want to improve search engine rankings, there are two ways to make that happen, and both techniques have to work together. First, you have to write amazing content. Second, you have to employ sound keyword strategy.

I spent last weekend in Hollywood, California. It was a great trip for two reasons:
  1. I was able to take a bunch of goofy tourist photos.
  2. I was afforded the opportunity to help people understand the importance of SEO.
View from hotel room included the HOLLYWOOD sign.

3 Reasons Why SEO Matters


Here's the brick wall I usually hit when explaining the importance of SEO. Most writers are allergic to numbers and statistics. Some writers are completely against structure (these writers often fight against the idea of using outlines).

However, if they're going to get the most bang for their buck online, writers (and all professionals) need to optimize their websites for search engine. Here's why:
  1. SEO leads to discover-ability. Most people who need to know the answer to something now go online to find the answers. Sites that aren't optimized for search engines will not display in the search results. If your site isn't on the first page of results, it's pretty much invisible. In fact, most sites that aren't in the first 3-5 spots on a search page will receive fewer than 5% of all clicks on a given search.
  2. SEO leads to higher traffic. A common method for measuring success on blogs and websites is to look at traffic. That makes a lot of sense. One good method for increasing traffic is to post a lot of new content, but it takes a lot of effort for each new page or post. Any even better method is to post content that receives as much (or more) traffic on day 365 as the day it was first posted. This can be accomplished with great SEO.
  3. SEO leads to improved content. Many writers point to content as the reason they object to learning SEO. They argue that targeting keywords leads to stilted language. Let me agree for a moment: Yes, it can. In such cases, keyword-loaded posts with stilted language do not perform well in search engine rankings. It takes a combination of great keywords and great content to consistently rank on page one.

Improve Search Engine Rankings


I'm only writing this post because I've seen the power of SEO first hand. I've spent the past two years experimenting with content on this blog, including increasing posts, linking to social media, and optimizing for search engines. Some experiments have worked; others have failed; and I try to share everything with my awesome readers.

As many long-time Not Bob readers know, I was posting nearly every day through the first five months of 2012. I'd driven traffic to my blog to new levels through many strategies mentioned in my 25 Ways to Increase Blog Traffic post. Then, life got in the way, and I was able to run a different type of experiment--a very passive experiment. I was able to see what my Not Bob traffic would be like without new content.

This is only my 2nd post since August 7 and 10th since May 31. In fact, I didn't even post in the month of September. Traffic on my blog actually increased during the months of June through September (October is still in progress) by 44.8% in 2012 over 2011. In the month of September (in which I didn't make a single post), my traffic increased 41.4%.

I'm not sharing these stats to make your eyes gloss over or to boast. I want to emphasize that the traffic to my blog in my absence was not due to new content. Instead, it was mostly through new readers finding me while searching for answers online. My combination of solid content and great keywords helped increase my traffic while I've been away.

Use SEO to Improve Your Platform


Whether you're a writer or business owner (and really, freelancer writers are business owners), search engine rankings are essential to your success online. Lucky for you, I've developed a 30-day challenge for improving your online platform. It's completely free and--from the testimonials I've received--completely effective in jump starting your process. 

Over the 30-day plan, I cover many tasks, including better SEO. I encourage you to start taking the challenge today (or this weekend) if you haven't yet.

*****

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Check out these other helpful Not Bob posts:
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And if you want a way to improve make a super investment in your author platform, check out the latest offering from Writer's Digest: Author Platform Consultations. There are three different levels--from a basic package (that is anything but basic) to an 8-week program that involves 30-minute consultations each week. Click here to learn more.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Where Should I Focus My Time? Tips for Social Media Use

As many of you Not Bob regulars know, I unplugged in July. It's something I just needed to do to finish up some projects, spend time with my family, and re-charge my blogging batteries. However, I took my time off very seriously and let my e-mail build and found the following problem hidden in there.


During the summer, I spent time with family.

Problem: Where Should I Focus My Time?


A reader of the Not Bob blog contacted me to let me know he's getting serious about his social media and blogging usage. He already had some social media accounts on Facebook and LinkedIn (with as many as 1,000 connections), but he didn't seem to be getting the traction he wanted. As a result, he was considering joining some other social media sites, including RedRoom, Twitter, and Pinterest. His basic question was, "Where should I focus my time?"

On the surface, this seems like a good question to ask. After all, if site A is more profitable than site B, then it would make sense to spend more time on site A and less (or none) on site B, right? This saves time and energy if you know which site works best.

That's the big IF usually: How do I know which site works best?

Problem: How Should I Focus My Time?


When the reader mentioned the more than 1,000 connections, he let slip that he only really knew about 10% of them. I think this is fairly common for people with large social networks: They know some, but not all of their online connections. So maybe the question shouldn't be where should I spend my time, but instead, how should I spend my time?

Maybe instead of thinking where to go next, think about how you should act once you are on a social network. Send messages to new friends explaining why you friended them, or ask why they friended you. Comment on status updates or tweets. Try to engage your connections and really pay attention to what they have to say.

Sometimes, I think we get so focused on the end result of our investments that we turn into social media robots shoveling information and sales pitches out to our "friends" and "followers," instead of doing the thing that's more important, and that's being human.

*****

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Check out these other Not Bob posts for writers:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What is branding all about anyway?

These are questions I get often, "What is branding? What is a writer platform? Why should I care?"

I've covered the topic on here before, but that doesn't mean everyone reads every post--or that I do a good job of communicating my message in every post. So I'm going to tackle each of these questions in order.

What is branding?


The short and sweet answer is that branding is how someone communicates the image (and hopefully identity) of a product, service, or whatever. For instance, Kroger grocery stores have recently been branding themselves as a place that has shorter waiting times for customers at check out (image)--and they've been following it up (at least in Duluth, Georgia) by opening lanes on the spot to keep lines from forming (identity).


What sets you apart as a writer?

Writers might brand themselves as fast and affordable, but what sets many apart is their unique voices and/or subjects they handle. If I had to peg my own brand, I'd probably say that Robert Lee Brewer is an expert on the business of writing who also enjoys the art and craft of poetry. I might also take it a step further by claiming to be nice and helpful.

Branding is not about selling stuff as much as it is about effectively communicating who you are or what sets you apart from everyone else. In a way, I guess branding (whether for yourself, a book, or a webinar) is your USP (or unique selling point).

What is a writer platform?


A writer platform is a combination of tools that--when used effectively--help writers brand themselves. The writer platform is not used to sell specific products and services exactly; it's used to communicate who the writer is and build confidence in the writer's authority, whether the writer handles parenting topics or pens horror novels.

Recently, someone made a comment on one of the platform-related posts that a platform isn't useful unless you have a product to sell (a book, a webinar, a course), but I don't agree with that assessment completely. Sure, it's going to put more money in your pocket if you have something relevant and worthwhile to sell as you build your platform. But even that product would add to your writer platform; it's another part of your brand.

Writers start building a platform from day one by working on the craft of writing. Then, they build up the courage to communicate that they write when they're locked away from other people. Eventually, they start submitting their writing--and then, that writing starts getting published. All this adds to the momentum of the writer platform. Eventually, some writers find that their platforms are solid enough that people start coming to them with projects.

Why should I care?


Earlier today, I read an interesting article on Poynter about Forbes.com's contributed content model of publishing. It's having great results for Forbes, and it's changing the way journalists have to view their work and their way of earning a living. In the article, the author (Jeff Sonderman) writes, "If this is the future, journalists may need to prepare for living every day like a hustle — leaning on their personal brands and piecing together a multi-stream income. But then again, we were never in it for the money."

I've felt for a long time that the contributed content (or "entrepreneurial journalism") method is one of the most likely to succeed for publishing in the future. While I don't think every outlet will adopt this model, I think it's success with Forbes.com--in addition to the success of sites like Wikipedia--underscores how the traditional role of a "writer" is changing.

I think writers should care, because it will become increasingly dangerous and foolish for writers to build their brands around a book or a webinar or a course. Instead, writers would be wise to brand themselves as the product offering various services, whether that's writing an article, completing a book, leading a webinar, or speaking at an event.

Circling back to Kroger, the grocery store doesn't brand itself as a carton of eggs or a gallon of milk. Instead, Kroger is the helpful and reliable place you go to find eggs, milk, or a number of other things, and they'll get you checked out quickly.

If a writer has a strong brand, it won't matter if the future is in print publishing, e-publishing, traditional publishing, self-publishing, education, apps, or a combination of several products and services. What will matter is that customers (editors, agents, publishers, and readers) will know that you're the person to see about subjects x, y, and z.


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Check out these other Not Bob posts for writers:

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How to Build (or Improve) Your Writer Platform in 30 Days

There are several ways to build a writer platform. There are even more ways to improve your writer platform after you've built your foundation. In April, MNINB readers set off on a 30-day challenge to build and refine writer platforms. I'm happy to say the results were excellent!


Building a Solid Writer Platform Requires the Right Tools.

In fact, here's what just a few participants said after completing the platform challenge:
  • "I learned a lot. My favourite task was the editorial calendar and coming up with a daily task for the month of May. These are two things that I plan on doing for months to come." --Rena J. Traxel
  • "I had a blast, and learned a lot. Most helpful (and most painful) for me was kickin' my butt to add more social media sites. And along with that, your blessing to back off on those that didn't blow wind into our sails. ... In a word, NB? This has been PHENOMENAL!" --Anne Kimball
  • "This challenge has been by far the single most beneficial experience of my social media and writing life. As many others noted, some of the tasks were ones I had already completed but much of this information was brand new." --Blyth McManus
  • "This challenge moved me farther and faster than I ever would have on my own. Without the support and guidance, I probably would have given up (or just not known to do) some of the tasks involved. It's been invaluable--thank you!" --J.B. Everett
  • "Seriously, this has been great. My favorite part was pushing me to interact with other bloggers by offering a guest post and asking for an interview. I never thought I was 'big' enough in the writing world to take those steps. You showed us that no one cares how big you are." --Sarah Negovetich
Good stuff, right? And anyone can take (or revisit) this platform-building challenge now for free by using this blog post.

How to Build Your Writer Platform in 30 Days


Here are the steps writers can take to build their writing platforms in 30 days. While using this post as an outline is helpful, I must emphasize that clicking on each link and reading each post thoroughly will provide you with so much more information and insight into how to complete (and optimize) each day's task. Also, go in order if you can help it, because it's in a certain order for a reason.
  1. Define yourself. There are questions every writer should ask before building a platform.
  2. Set your goals. Goals provide you a purpose and a finish line. A smart writer has long-term and short-term goals.
  3. Join Facebook. Even if you're already a member, this post shares some tips on how to improve your use of the popular social media site.
  4. Join Twitter. Again, optimization tips are included for Twitter users.
  5. Start a blog. It's sounds like an important step--and it is--but it doesn't have to be painful. In fact, starting a blog is easy.
  6. Read a post, comment on it. Most importantly, link back to your own blog. This post includes strategies for leaving thought-provoking comments that will help you build connections.
  7. Add share buttons to your blog. Even if you already use share buttons, you may find you like these share buttons better. At least, that's what other platform participants claimed.
  8. Join LinkedIn. With optimization tips.
  9. Respond to at least three Tweets. This task is vital to building a social media routine that actually involves you with your online connections.
  10. Do Google search on yourself. You might be amazed (or embarrassed) at what you find.
  11. Find a helpful article and link to it. Part of being social effectively is being helpful--and not just in promoting yourself.
  12. Write a blog post and include call to action. What's a call to action? Find out in this post.
  13. Link to post on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. In this post, we focus on the value of linking your social media profiles to your blog and vice versa.
  14. Join Google+. Yes, another social media site. It's called a challenge for a reason.
  15. Make three new connections. If you want extra credit, go for five.
  16. Add e-mail feed to blog. Your blog may already offer this, but it's important to building traffic and keeping readers engaged.
  17. Take part in a Twitter conversation. For instance, the MNINB crowd meets on Tuesdays using the #MNINB hashtag.
  18. Think about SEO. SEO means search engine optimization, which itself means making it easier for people to find you on Google, Bing, Yahoo, and/or other search engines.
  19. Write blog post. Part of this challenge is building routines.
  20. Create editorial calendar. This tool is one of the most important for improving the content on the MNINB blog. Many platform-building participants loved this post.
  21. Sign up for social media tool. Many social media super users swear by these social media tools. This post discusses options.
  22. Pitch guest blog post. Don't have any experience? That's fine. You can pitch relevant blogs anyway.
  23. Create a time management plan. Smart people realize that time is often more valuable than money. Learn how to manage that precious time.
  24. Take part in a Twitter conversation. Again, the #MNINB hashtag is especially busy on Tuesdays, though there are plenty of other writing-related (and not-writing-related) hashtags out there.
  25. Contact an expert for an interview post. This post includes tips on how to contact your preferred experts.
  26. Write a blog post and link post to social networks. What once was spread across two days is now done in one. Welcome to optimizing your time and efforts.
  27. Join another social media site. Whether it's Pinterest, Goodreads, RedRoom, or something else, keep the pedal to the metal on the social media hopping thing. Plus, here's how I handle social media sites.
  28. Read post and comment on it. Routines are good, especially when you're connecting with other like-minded bloggers.
  29. Make a task list. Time to get thinking about next month. Don't let your momentum completely stop on Day 30.
  30. Let me know what you think. After all, I like to know what's working, not working, could be improved for my challenges. Hope this one rocked your socks off.
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Create Your Writer Platform: The Key to Building an Audience, Selling More Books, and Finding Success as an Author
by Chuck Sambuchino

What I value the most about Chuck's latest book is that it covers all aspects of platform building (and for all genres). So while this book thoroughly covers online platform (in fact, it contains some Not Bob content), it also covers speaking gigs and shares actual case studies.

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Check out these other Not Bob posts for writers:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

April Platform Challenge: Next Steps

Yes, I know it's May. And yes, I know the April Platform Challenge is over. But I wanted to share a few last pieces of advice related to building your platform. A few of these are ideas that cost money, and I was really trying to avoid touching on tasks that would require money during April.

Here are three more steps:
  1. Buy your URL domain name. Of course, the goal here is to eventually host a website at the domain, but if nothing else, buy your URL domain name before someone else does. For instance, I own http://www.robertleebrewer.com/, which takes you to a GoDaddy place-holder page right now--until I do something with it. But at least, I know that no other Robert Lee Brewers can take my name.
  2. Purchase business cards. These cards are important marketing tools at events and can be included in mailings as well. For mine, I go simple and just include my name, skills, mailing address, e-mail address, and URL. There's no reason to break the bank with crazy images and/or weird sizes. Often, the extra expense just makes your business card look tacky.
  3. Build connections. Ha! This doesn't cost any money--or at least, it shouldn't. Instead, it requires a large investment of time. A few of the basics from the April Platform Challenge were to be consistent, experiment, and build connections through sharing and communicating. Keep that going in May and beyond.
There are always new tools to master and carrots to chase, but claiming your domain name and making connections will always add value to your platform-building efforts.

*****

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*****

Check out these other Not Bob posts for writers:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

April Platform Challenge: Day 29

Tomorrow is the last day of this challenge. Yay! We're nearly to the finish line.


Almost there.

For today's task, make a task list of things you are going to do on each day of May. That's right, I want you to break down 31 days with 31 tasks for each day--similar to what we've done through April.

You see, I don't want you to quit challenging yourself once April is over. Of course, you get to decide what the tasks will be. So if you aren't into new social media sites, don't put them on your list. Instead, focus on blog posts, commenting on other sites, linking to articles, contacting experts, or whatever it is that you are going to do in May to keep momentum building toward an incredible author platform.

Somewhere near the end of May, you should have a day set aside with one task: Make a task list of things to do on each day of June. And so on and so forth. Keep it going, keep it rolling, and your efforts will continue to gain momentum and speed. I promise.

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Learn About Platform, the Back Door Way.

This live webinar is set for May 24 (2012) and will be taught by one of my favorite presenters: C. Hope Clark! If you've never attended a presentation by Hope, you'll be amazed by the overwhelming wave of information with which she'll flood you. She's amazing. Plus, all registrants will receive a personalized critique on their personal projects, which is an amazing deal in and of itself.

Click to continue.

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Need to catch up or re-visit earlier challenge tasks? Here are the most recent:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

April Platform Challenge: Day 28

We're down to the final three days of this challenge. I hope it's been a good experience. I know I've learned plenty this month from the group, so that makes me hopeful that even if I didn't teach you anything new that at least others in the group did. Today's task is an easy one, since I asked everyone to join a new social media site yesterday.


Find a post, comment on it, and make sure it links back to you.

For today's task, read and comment on a blog post (MNINB does not count), making sure that your comment links back to your blog or website.

If you remember, this was the same task required way back on Day 6. How far we've come, though it's still a good idea to stay connected and engaged with other bloggers. I know I find that sometimes I start to insulate myself in my own little blogging communities and worlds--when it's good to get out and read what others are doing. In fact, that's what helped inspire my Monday Advice for Writers posts--it gives me motivation to read what others are writing (on writing, of course).

Anyway, click here for some ideas on how to comment on another blogger's blog.

Enjoy today, because I can't guarantee tomorrow's task won't be much more difficult.

[Cue evil laugh]

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Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Plus, sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.


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Learn About Platform, the Back Door Way.

This live webinar is set for May 24 (2012) and will be taught by one of my favorite presenters: C. Hope Clark! If you've never attended a presentation by Hope, you'll be amazed by the overwhelming wave of information with which she'll flood you. She's amazing. Plus, all registrants will receive a personalized critique on their personal projects, which is an amazing deal in and of itself.

Click to continue.

*****

Need to catch up or re-visit earlier challenge tasks? Here are the most recent:

Friday, April 27, 2012

April Platform Challenge: Day 27

Okay, I know I'm not going to make any friends with today's task, but I have to do it. More importantly, you have to do it. That is, you need to push out of that comfort zone (for at least the month of April, which is now nearly over).


Don't close the door on new social media sites.

For today's task, join one new social media site. I will leave it up to you to decide which new social media site it will be. Maybe Pinterest (the surging dynamo) or possibly Goodreads (popular with writers who love to read--aka, the best kind) or even RedRoom (another popular site for authors).

If you're already signed up on all three of those sites, then heck, I'll give you a free pass today--unless there's a new site you've been meaning to check out (and there probably is if you're already a member of so many social media sites). It's my gift to you for being so proactively experimental.

Click here to check out my Ultimate Guide to Social Media.

To everyone who doesn't want another site to join...


I understand your frustration and exhaustion. During a normal month, I'd never suggest someone sign up for so many social media sites in such a short period of time, but this isn't a normal month. We're in the midst of a challenge!

And no, I don't expect you to spend a lot of time on every social media site you join. That's not always the point when you first sign up. No, you sign up to poke around and see if the site interests you at all. See if you have any natural connections. Try mingling a little bit.

If the site doesn't appeal to you, feel free to let it be for a while. Let me share a story with you.

How I Came to Rock Facebook and Twitter


My Facebook and Twitter accounts both boast more than 5,000 followers (or friends/subscribers) today. But both accounts were originally created and abandoned, because they just weren't right for me at the time that I signed up.

For Facebook, I just didn't understand why I would abandon a perfectly good MySpace account to play around on a site that didn't feature the same level of music and personal blogging that MySpace did. But then, MySpace turned into Spam-opolis, and the rest is history.

For Twitter, I just didn't get the whole Tweet concept, because Facebook already had status updates. Why Tweet when I could update my status on Facebook?

But I've gained a lot professionally and personally from Facebook and Twitter--even though they weren't the right sites for me initially. In fact, Google+ is sort of in that area for me right now. I don't use it near enough, but I started an account, because it just feels like a place that will explode sooner or later. It's not like Facebook is going to be around forever.

Click here to check out the Tangible Power of Social Media.

The Importance of Experimentation


Or as I prefer to think of it: The importance of play. You should constantly try new things, whether in your writing, your social media networks, or the places you eat food. Not only does it make life more exciting and provide you with new experiences and perspective, but it also helps make you a more well-rounded human being.

So don't complain about joining a new social media site. Instead, embrace the excuse to try something new, especially when there are only three more tasks left this month (and I promise no more new sites after today).

*****

Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Plus, sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.


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Learn About Platform, the Back Door Way.

This live webinar is set for May 24 (2012) and will be taught by one of my favorite presenters: C. Hope Clark! If you've never attended a presentation by Hope, you'll be amazed by the overwhelming wave of information with which she'll flood you. She's amazing. Plus, all registrants will receive a personalized critique on their personal projects, which is an amazing deal in and of itself.

Click to continue.

*****

Need to catch up or re-visit earlier challenge tasks? Here are the most recent:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

April Platform Challenge: Day 26

(Note: If today's task seems a lot like last week's task on Thursday, there's a reason for that deja vu: It's the same task. One goal of this challenge is to build the basic routine of blogging at least once per week. If you're exceeding that, then good on you!)

For today's task, write a new blog post. Include a call to action (for instance, encourage readers to sign up for your e-mail feed or to share the post with others by using your share buttons) and link to it on your social networks. Also, don't forget to think SEO.


Consistency is still your ticket to success.

One of the top rules of finding success with online tools is applying consistency. While it's definitely a great thing if you share a blog post more than once a week, I think it's imperative that you post AT LEAST once a week. The main reason? It builds trust with your readers that you'll have something to share regularly and gives them a reason to visit regularly.

So today's task is not about making things complicated; it's just about keeping it real.

*****

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Get the Final Seat in the Online Fiction Pitch Slam.

I just checked, and there is literally only one seat left for the Fiction Pitch Slam. Soooo... act fast if you want to get feedback from professional editors and two literary agents!

Click to continue.

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Need to catch up or re-visit earlier challenge tasks? Here are the most recent:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April Platform Challenge: Day 25

One way to improve your platform is to make connections with other folks in your field, whether that field is writing, parenting, running, or rocket science. And a great way to make connections while helping establish your expertise in a field is through the act of interviewing experts. Sooo...


Excuse me. May I ask you a few questions?

For today's task, find an expert in your field and ask if that expert would like to be interviewed. If you can secure the interview, this will make for a great blog post. Or it may help you secure a freelance assignment with a publication in your field. Or both, and possibly more.

How to Ask for an Interview


Believe it or not, asking for an interview with an expert is easy. I do it all the time, and these are the steps I take.
  1. Find an expert on a topic. This is sometimes the hardest part: figuring out who I want to interview. But I never kill myself trying to think of the perfect person, and here's why: I can always ask for more interviews. Sometimes, it's just more productive to get the ball rolling than come up with excuses to not get started.
  2. Locate an e-mail for the expert. This can often be difficult, but a lot of experts have websites that share either e-mail addresses or have online contact forms. Many experts can also be reached via social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc. Or they can be contacted through company websites. And so on.
  3. Send an e-mail asking for an e-mail interview. Of course, you can do this via an online contact form too. If the expert says no, that's fine. Respond with a "Thank you for considering and maybe we can make it work sometime in the future." If the expert says yes, then it's time to send along the questions.

How to Handle an E-mail Interview


Once you've secured your expert, it's time to compose and send the questions. Here are some of my tips.
  • Always start off by asking questions about the expert. This might seem obvious to some, but you'd be surprised how many people start off asking "big questions" right out of the gate. Always start off by giving the expert a chance to talk about what he or she is doing, has recently done, etc.
  • Limit questions to 10 or fewer. The reason for this is that you don't want to overwhelm your expert. In fact, I usually ask around eight questions in my e-mail interviews. If I need to, I'll send along some follow-up questions, though I try to limit those as well. I want the expert to have an enjoyable experience, not a horrible experience. After all, I want the expert to be a connection going forward.
  • Try not to get too personal. If experts want to get personal in their answers, that's great. But try to avoid getting too personal in the questions you ask, because you may offend your expert or make them feel uncomfortable. Remember: You're interviewing the expert, not leading an interrogation.
  • Request additional information. By additional information, I mean that you should request a head shot and a preferred bio--along with any links. To make the interview worth the expert's time, you should afford them an opportunity to promote themselves and their projects in their bios.

Once the Interview Goes Live...


Link to it on your social networks and let your expert know it is up (and include the specific link to the interview). If you're not already searching for your next expert to interview, be sure to get on it.

*****

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Access a Library of Information for One Price!

This is seriously one of the more exciting things I've seen Writer's Digest ever offer. Unlimited access to more than 80 writing instruction e-books (and counting) for one price. Books on the craft of writing; books on the business of writing; they're all here.

Click to continue.

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Need to catch up or re-visit earlier challenge tasks? Here the most recent: