What The H*ll Do You Want???

What do you, as a reader, want on author blogs? I see all kinds of things, and some pretty nonsensical advice from gurus claiming to know what readers want from author blogs and websites. So, as usual when I want to know something, I decided to go straight to the horse’s mouth. BTW, if you’re a reader, that’s you. So, here goes.

Not All Readers Are Created Equal.

A large percentage of the visitors to writers/authors blogs and sites are other writers. What they want may be vastly different from what the non-writer reader wants. As a result, we each have to decide which reader we want to target. Do we go for other writers, and have a pretty much guaranteed audience? Or seek out people who might actually buy our books and enjoy them?

Or, do we perhaps try for a mix, other writers and regular readers? If we do that, how do we achieve some sort of balance, or even separation, so that everyone gets what they want, without the parts they don’t want? Separate blogs/sites, one for writers, one for readers, aren’t an uncommon solution. The writer has to split her time and efforts, often inefficiently, and often leading to one blog being of far inferior quality than the other. If we take that course, which side gets sacrificed?

Other Writers As Readers

See, while writers tend to be voracious readers, we also tend to be 1.) very selective in reading material, and 2.) often, many of us are on a pretty tight budget. We often read extensively in our own genre, sometimes with a very narrow focus within it, but not much else. Or we read lots of writing craft books. Or only authors we wish to emulate. Or… Anyway, often, we don’t look at all the carefully placed marketing materials on author blogs.

With frequently limited reading time, as we push to write our own material, we look for blogs and sites that have materials that will help us improve our writing, find an agent, get published, and sell our books. Word quickly gets around about blogs that provide such useful materials, and they develop large followings.

So, if we’re aiming our blog or site at other writers, we need to focus on materials that will help other writers be more successful.

Readers As Readers

Here’s where things get tricky. What if we want people who are looking for books to make our blog their favorite online hang-out? Of course, we’d love to have the avid reader, the one who consumes multiple books per week, reading our blog. What does she look for in an author’s blog?

Our avid reader might be up for an occasional day-in-the-life sort of post, if she’s a little curious about how and what writers actually do. Writing craft posts aren’t too likely to catch her attention, though. She might like reviews, to help her choose other books to buy, but do we want to send her to buy from the competition?

How can we keep her focus on our work? Cover art, blurbs, and buy links should probably go without saying. How else will the reader know what books we have, and how to get them? I also see excerpts on quite a few author sites, of all levels, so the conventional wisdom would seem to favor excerpts. Give the reader a little taste of the product, as it were. But where do we go from there?

Leave It To The Imagination

One author (I’m sure there are many more doing this, too.) has a page on her website dedicated to artwork related to her books. That sounds good, on the surface. The problem is, she uses these computer drawn images of her characters, which can be gorgeous, when well done. Hers aren’t. They’re very took-one-class-and-now-I’m-a-professional-artist looking, with uneven proportions and colors that resemble dog-puke together. Such things, done purposely, can work, but not in this case. It ends up making her look like an amateur, almost childish, instead of a professional author.

Maybe I’m in the minority, but even before I came back to writing fiction seriously, that sort of thing really turned me off as a reader. If the representations of characters aren’t extremely well done, I greatly prefer my imagination.

Involving Readers?

I know of one mid-list author whose fans sometimes sent her original, professionally done graphics, just to share their enthusiasm for her books. She, with the artists’ permission, used the graphics on her website, and when the collection grew, on merchandise. She has gorgeous hoodies and tees with the graphics, and short quotes and slogans, for sale on her site. I have no idea how well that’s going, but with fabulous artwork, reasonable prices, and good quality, I’d be surprised if it weren’t successful.

How that can translate to other authors, I have no idea, but it seems worth exploring.

Other authors involve readers in various ways – giveaways and contests, responding to reader questions publicly, social media interactions, interviews, blog tours, reviews, newsletters, and etc. The problem with these things is that everyone is doing them, making it tough to stand out from the crowd. We’re told by all the experts that these things will translate to book sales, and they probably do for some. But isn’t there more we can do, without wasting effort and money?

The Question, Then, Becomes:

What can writers/authors do to draw actual readers to our blogs/sites, and keep them involved and returning? Even those of us just starting out, perhaps not even published yet? What can we do to build a loyal following of readers, eagerly anticipating the release of our (next) book?

Do any of the methods listed above catch your attention as a reader, bring you to our blog/site, and keep you coming back for more? Or do they all just get lost in the shuffle? What kinds of things writers do to promote their work annoy you? Would you buy their books even if you’re a little put off by their marketing?

What can authors do to make you feel special, and valued, as an individual? What can we do to convince you to be our reader?

 

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Happy 2012!!!

It’s finally here! January 1st!

Happy Birthday, 2012!

My family experienced a great deal in 2011. Some very good stuff, some not-so-good stuff, and lots of just stuff. In the past few weeks, I found myself reflecting on it all. From my current perspective, the good outweighs the not-so-good, and for that, I’m profoundly grateful. As the year closes, my loved ones are relatively healthy, safe, and happy, with enough. I’m sorry more people can’t say that.

As I contemplated what 2012 might hold, I planned a few goals, both personal and professional. I can’t call them New Years Resolutions because in elementary school, we were made to write down 10 Resolutions each year. Because we weren’t taught the significance of a resolution, and it was treated very casually, I promptly forgot them as soon as I turned my paper in. So now, I have that little “homework assignment” connection in my brain, and I haven’t been able to break it, but I always break New Years Resolutions. If I want to follow through and achieve them, I have to call them goals.

So, here we go. First, the personal stuff. It’s a fairly short list, mainly because I’m focused pretty exclusively on my family and on writing. Yup, I’m boring. 😀

  • I want to be more accessible to my family, especially my daughter, who’s going through some pretty intense personal stuff right now, and my little grandsons, who need all the stability and love they can get.
  • I want to be sure the boys have a solid foundation for education, so I’ve started supplemental home-schooling for the eldest, who’s in preschool – nothing intense, but enough that he knows the importance we place on learning. In 2012, I want to expand those efforts into all the developmental areas, and do more focused activities with the middle and youngest boys.
  • I’m a little… shall we say… domestically challenged. I’m pretty good with the laundry and dishes, but I tend to get lax with some things. I want to stay on top of it all, so my house isn’t merely presentable. Over the last few weeks, I’ve worked on eliminating a lot of no longer useful things we’ve accumulated, and getting the remainder organized. I want to finish that, and maintain it. Hubby has always taken care of the essential outdoor work, but a lot of things  have slipped through the cracks. So, that needs to be addressed and dealt with.
  • There are several home repairs/improvements we’ve been dragging our feet on, so one of our family goals is to take care of the most essential of those – new flooring, new rain gutters, and hopefully, a new bathtub.
  • Hubby needs to lose a few pounds, and I have a few extra this year ( I was skinny up until about a year ago when a med change made me gain some), and our whole family needs to eat healthier. Since our daughter and her boys live almost next door, we often eat together, especially if she or I actually cook. The entire family needs a healthier, less meat-centric diet. To that end, D and I both will be cooking more from scratch. We’ll give up some of the time-saving and convenience of packaged prepared foods, but it will be worth it in more ways than one.
  • We all need to get more exercise. My health problems can make “exercise” impossible, so I have to be careful to use daily physical activity to maintain some level of fitness. The rest of the family is capable of intentional fitness building activity, so using the boys’ need for physical activity, and for positive fitness role models, should spur them on. Hey,  I’m not above manipulation, especially for a good cause. 😀

And now, professional stuff. This list is a lot longer, and I had to cut it to keep it reasonable, and hopefully, achievable. There are far too many things I want to accomplish with writing, and I have to force myself to work deliberately toward each goal. Otherwise, I’ll end up with a huge mess, and nothing to show for it. So this list is the result of cutting down the three pages of my original goals.

  • Get Blood Dragon out there, and find a publisher. I’m winding down the last leg of some much needed revisions. There’s been a little interest in it already, so I’m pretty optimistic for it.
  • Get Blood Dragon II finished and out on submission. The first draft is halfway there. Just a couple weeks of my usual 5k/day production will get it done (if I can ever get it together enough to do that consistently again!). So far, it’s my cleanest first draft, so editing will be mainly story level stuff, I think.
  • Rewrite the two trunked Blood Dragon stories and get them on submission. They both have solid stories, but I’ve learned so much since I wrote them. I need to integrate all that before anyone sees them.
  • Finish building the new creature and write the first draft of the foundation book of the series. It’s coming along, slowly, but I haven’t devoted enough time to it. A couple dozen hours of solid work, and it will be fleshed out, with a complete evolutionary and natural history, just waiting to step off the page into your life.
  • Self-publish a few of the short stories sitting on my hard drive, and write more. Currently, I have several contemporary erotic romance shorts, and a couple of horror shorts just sitting here. So, I’ve decided to clean them up a bit, and self-pub them.
  • Post here more consistently, with more interesting, helpful, and thought provoking content. I’ve already started the Writer Wednesday series, Nailing Down the Essentials, where I’ll cover different story elements and techniques, and hopefully how to make the most of them – stuff I wasted a lot of time looking for when I first started writing fiction seriously again. I’m also going to be hosting other writers in an Author Spotlight feature, beginning in mid-January – so watch for some fantastic writers you might not be aware of yet. And I’m planning posts for roughly once a week on pretty random topics, though most will be relevant to readers and writers. I’m working on an overhaul (again) for the blog, which will include some expansions, but I’m not sure when that will go live. Still a lot of work to do.
  • Use Social Media more consistently, building tighter relationships with other writers, and especially with readers. I’m pretty consistent with Twitter, but I need to work on other platforms a bit.
  • I attended my first Writers Conference in April 2011. I want to attend at least 2 in 2012, with at least one of them being a bit larger than the free event in Bowling Green. It was fantastic, with some really useful workshops, and I learned a great deal, but if I’m going to travel several hours and spend 2-3 nights in a hotel, I’d like a little more bang for my buck.
  • And over and through it all, continuously improve my writing and increase my productivity.

I think that’s enough for now, don’t you? Periodically through the coming year, I’ll post an update to let you know what kind of progress I’m making.

What kind of goals and resolutions do you have for 2012? Do you have plans in place for achieving them? Or are they just “I’d like to someday…” things? Do your goals depend on someone else in any way, or are they your sole responsibility?

Holiday Ramblings and Wishes

Since it’s Christmas, I decided to skip Six Sentence Sunday this week. I’d like to take a moment to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday. Those of us fortunate to have family and friends around us, as well as health, safety, food, and shelter, need to remember to be grateful for all our blessings. It doesn’t have to be religious, just a moment to reflect and be glad for all the good in our lives. So many in this world have none of those things.

Our family has always had a fairly traditional Christmas, though there were lean years when any gifts consisted solely of the socks and underwear variety. We’ve always given as many homemade gifts as possible, because we believe that taking the time and energy to make a gift for a loved one gives us time to anticipate how they will love our gift, and to remember how important they are to us. Most importantly, we’ve always placed far more importance on spending quality time with those we love, and the religious significance is another aspect of family and love for us.

Over the next few days, I’ll be thinking of the New Year, and all the things I’d like to accomplish in 2012. I already know several of my goals, both personal and professional. Some are entirely new, while others are continuations of things I’ve already worked on in 2011. Most of the thinking will be centered on planning exactly how to accomplish all those goals.

Next Sunday, I’ll share a few of my goals and plans – I don’t call them New Years’ Resolutions, because when I do, I rarely take them seriously enough to accomplish them.

I hope you all have a wondrous Christmas, and time to share it peacefully with loved ones. Forget the stress often associated with holidays and family gatherings, and allow yourself to simply enjoy.

{{{{All of you}}}}

Kenra

 

New Feature: Sharing Saturday

I come across some fabulous websites as I interact with readers and other writers, and various people who don’t mind answering really weird questions from a complete stranger. Somehow, just adding a link to the sidebar doesn’t seem enough for those sites. So, I’m going to start sharing those links with you here on Saturdays, once or twice a month. Some will be of interest only to other writers, some to both readers and writers, and some will just be general interest. If you’d like to suggest a site or blog to add to Sharing Saturday, just leave a comment, or drop me an email at kenradaniels AT gmail DOT com.

Today, I have 2 Shares.

SheWrites.com will be of interest to female writers. This online community is made up of women writers of all levels and all kinds of material from all over the world. Everything from novices to multi-published authors. The entire community is geared toward helping each other achieve goals in writing. Those with more experience freely give information and advice to those with less. If you’re female, and a writer, you definitely won’t regret the free membership!

Readers and writers who are interested in Horror, Dark Fantasy, and anything with Dark elements will love Dark Media City. In addition to books DMC is also all about movies, videos, music, and art. You like zombies? How about vampires? Werewolves? Death? Darkness? You’ll find it all at DMC, along with regular chats and interviews with the creators of all that darkness. You can share your own work, or just enjoy that of other members, all while getting to know others who like the same things. Last but not least – membership is free!

That’s it for today. Watch for another Sharing Saturday in the coming weeks.

Romance Novel Pet Peeves Part 2

This one really isn’t about the actual novels, but about those who criticize Romance as a genre. In recent months, various people, from writers of literary fiction to someone calling herself an expert in psychology, have publicly bashed Romance.

Romance novels have been called everything from unrealistic and unimaginative to outright dangerous. The image of romance readers as vapid housewives fanning themselves and eating bonbons while reading about a pirate ravishing a virgin still prevails in some minds. The so-called danger comes in with accusations that Romance novels cause readers to have unrealistic expectations for their relationships. Readers supposedly expect their balding, slightly overweight accountant husband to behave like the virile, dashing hero. When the hero doesn’t fulfill those expectations, the reader becomes dissatisfied with her life.

While other genres are allowed to be blatantly unrealistic, with elves and fairies, aliens and spaceships, Romance is criticized for being unrealistic. The characters and relationships, the central focus of the book, bears the brunt of this criticism. A hero who is willing to listen to his heroine, or put her before himself, or even have her best interests at heart, is too unrealistic, as is the man who swoops to the rescue. Well, duh! The idea is to take the reader to a different place, where her dreams of the perfect man are realized, not where the man would rather watch the game and drink beer than spend time with her. The heroine draws her share of the hate, too, never mind that she’s meant to be the kind of woman the reader can wish circumstances allowed her to be.

And then there’s the belief that all Romance novels are written by the same formula. The only thing that changes, such critics say, is the name of the characters and details of the circumstances or conflict. This one is hard to refute at times, especially when some writers believe it as well. The fact is, some writers find a combination of factors that works for them, and continue to use it. Others start from scratch every single time. Part of what perpetuates this myth is that, in order to be a Romance, the focus of the novel must be the couple and their developing relationship, and there must be a Happily Ever After, or Happily For Now ending. Regardless of what other elements are present, if those aren’t there, it isn’t a Romance.

One of my favorites is the belief that Romance novels are easier to write than any other genre. People think all you do is plug the variables into the equation, add an exotic location, and viola, you have a Romance novel. Sorry, just not true. It doesn’t work that way. If anything, it’s more difficult to write a good romance, especially one of the many sub-genres. The author has to combine the romance with elements of another genre in a way that’s balanced, and satisfies the reader. A plot is absolutely essential. There has to be a source of conflict, either from outside sources, or internal – and in some cases, both. And the conflict must have a satisfactory solution.

And everyone knows Romance is full of poor writing and purple prose. Again, just not true. The quality of the writing in a Romance novel is just as high as any other genre. Sure, it might not be full of convoluted sentences and obscure words, but the standards are high for both traditionally, and e-published, novels. (Just like in any genre, self-published, or indie, novels vary in quality, depending on the ability of the writer and whether they’ve put the in the necessary time and work to prepare the book for publication.) As for the purple prose – yes, Romance novels written 20 or more years ago commonly used euphemism and purple prose to refer to the body parts and actions in intimate scenes. Social mores were different then, and the frank language of today wasn’t tolerated as well then. Today’s romances are written with mature language and eschew purple prose as much as any other genre.

To all those critics of Romance as a genre, I say: Our readers are educated and accomplished, from powerful CEOs, trial attorneys, teachers, parents and grad students. Our characters are as solid and well developed, maybe more so because of the very nature of Romance, as those of any other genre. Our stories are as well plotted and imaginative, and well written as those of any other genre. Our vocabulary is as complex and varied as as that of any other genre – with the possible exception of the fact that we don’t normally use obscure words that require our readers to stop every few sentences to refer to their collegiate dictionary. Yes, we write about fantastic heroes and heroines that our readers can imagine themselves in the place of. Rather than creating unrealistic expectations of relationships, our stories often inform readers of the ideal relationship. Sometimes, they have no other point of reference for ideal relationship standards. Yes, we do write fiction that allows our readers to escape their every day life for a while. Doesn’t everyone?

The following links are from both detractors and defenders of Romance as a genre.

What do you think? Are the critics right about Romance? Is their position founded on fact?

Writer Wednesday: What Makes a Writer?

I’ve been active on a few writing forums (fora?) and communities the past couple of years. During that time, I’ve seen the debate about what constitutes a writer hashed and rehashed. Every time writers start comparing word count goals and achievements, someone invariably feels they’re more of a writer than someone else, for whatever reason. It seems there are as many definitions of  ‘writer’ as there are writers and aspiring writers. The opinions run the gamut from some saying to call yourself a writer, you MUST write every day, to those who say it is enough to TRY to write.

My opinion is simple. Writers write. Period. If you have a great idea, but don’t take the time to do the work and write it, you may be an aspiring writer, but you aren’t a writer yet. For years, I fell in this category, even after I had two completed manuscripts under my belt. There was always something more important, family time, work, reading, etc, and that isn’t a bad thing at all. At that time in my life, those commitments needed more. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that the story wasn’t going to write itself. So, I gave up watching TV, and wrote. I didn’t give up family time, but my house did suffer a bit. Family time became more important when my daughter gave us not just one, but two beautiful grandsons. I became ill a few years ago, and had to stop working when I failed to recover fully.

It’s a matter of priorities. If writing is important to you, you make the time to write, at least occasionally. It really is that simple. IMHO, you don’t have to write everyday, but it does have to be on some kind of consistent basis – even if that’s the extra fifteen minutes you have left from lunch break once a weak. Lot’s of people write books a few minutes at a time.

I’ve heard many people say they’d write a book if only they had the time. Yet those same people spend HOURS each week watching TV or playing video games or surfing the net. My answer to them is that if you REALLY want to be a writer, you’ll give up some of the time you spend doing those things, and write. For me, my family is my first priority, and writing is my second, and both of those are subject to whatever my health is doing at the moment. By just giving up watching TV, I freed up a couple hours a day in which to write, and I take full advantage of it. For a time, I continued watching my absolute favorite shows, but after a while, TV held my attention less and less. Now, I watch, on average, one show per season, and sometimes not even that, if there’s nothing that truly interests me.

The internet was my big time suck. I LOVED the concept of having SO MUCH information right there at my fingertips. Yep, I’m a geek, but the ability to find out nearly anything about anything is something I value highly. Difficult as it is, these days, I limit my internet time to writing related stuff. I reward myself once a week with a couple hours of unrestrained surfing, if I’ve met my word count goals, etc, for the week. Last week, I started with Chinese mythology, and ended up reading about some obscure demon, then classic cars. That battle freed up several hours a week for writing. Between giving up TV for the most part, and limiting my internet use, I’ve given myself, on average, 3-4  hours a day to write. That’s outside the forty hours a week I would need for work if I still worked, and taking household chores and the like into account. So, if I worked full time, I would still have at least 2-3 hours a day for writing.

Tons of people call themselves writers simply because they like the IDEA of being a writer. Perhaps they think it sounds romantic, gives them an excuse to be eccentric, or that it will make them rich. Some of them hang out in online writers’ communities. Maybe they read a few articles. They might even string a few words together. But when the writing actually becomes WORK, they find other things to do  instead, and often make the excuse that they can’t ‘find the time’. It’s okay if they tried writing, found it wasn’t for them, and moved on to something else. But rather than admit that, they often use the excuse that they don’t have the time. That’s fine too, if other things are more important to them. But, IMHO, they aren’t writers, because writers write, even if it’s sporadic and they don’t produce  huge word counts.

Writers actually do the work. Maybe not every day, but on some schedule that works for them. They do the research, write the peice, edit it, and polish it. It might take them years, but they keep plugging away until they have completed a piece. Then they might start a new piece, or decide to take a break. Plenty of short stories and books get written during lunch break, while the baby naps, during the commute, during soccer practice. I greatly admire writers with the discipline to write in fifteen minute bursts every day, or every couple of days, and manage to complete something. I don’t have that kind of discipline, which is why I limit my TV and internet time.

Whether they write for their own  enjoyment, or for publication. Writers WRITE. Period.

BLOOD DRAGON is officially FINISHED!

I’ve finished the last of my edits and revisions of BLOOD DRAGON!! AND sent it to the editors who were interested in it from the RomanceDivas NGTCC pitch.

Now I have to decide what to focus on next. I have several ideas for new vampire/weredragon romances. I’m developing a new paranormal creature. And there are tons of ‘Really Should Do NOW’ things on my ToDo list.

Whichever, I’ll be working all the above. I’ll just have to decide which gets the majority of my time and effort right now. The focus can change, depending on many other factors.

And before I get tied up in any of it, I’m going to take a few days off and spend some extra time with my family. We’ll see if I make it more than 3 days before I give in to the internal pressure to get back to work. I seriously doubt it. 😀 I simply can’t just sit and watch a TV show, I have to also be DOING something. And that’s usually working on something writing related.

Do you ever have trouble deciding what to work on next after completing a major project? What about time off at the end of a major project – can you do it, or do you find yourself NEEDING to work?