April 11, 2010

Letter to a Young Blogger

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 1:26 pm

With thanks to Rilke (Ranier Maria, that is) for the title.

The other person I must thank is the author of the post itself, Sunny Frazier, who writes the Christy Bristol Astrological mystery series. If you like strong, star gazing women with your mysteries, check out these books.

Sunny was asked her thoughts on the importance of blogging and answered with the below. I thought both the perspective on new media and the concrete suggestions for people still hesitant to wade into the blogging waters well worth passing on to suspenseyourdisbelief readers.

It’s a kind of boot camp approach to the need to get your name out there!

As always, dear readers, feel free to comment and weigh in with your own perspectives. The only thing I profess to be true about marketing today is that your mileage may vary. Recently I had a conversation with some writer friends about how the introvert/extrovert personality distinction effects marketing efforts. So what works for some may not work as well for you. If it doesn’t, I’d love to hear why!

And now without further ado, Sunny’s thoughts…

Dear [insert emerging writer's name here]:

This is the first time your name has come through my radar. So, I’d say your name recognition is low. What does your Google Alerts say about your profile? How many sites are you on when you Google your name (for the record, I’m up to 240). How do you expect to get book sales when nobody has heard of you?

And why would you ignore any opportunity to build your platform? Right now I’m vetting manuscripts for my publisher and the first thing I do is see if the author is active on the Internet. That’s my litmus test. I’d rather have a strong marketer who is making contacts BEFORE publication than one who sits around and waits until they have a book to promote.

Blogging is not as hard as people make it. First, you are a writer. Writing is what you do. Second, you have opinions. Opinions and attitude are what blogs are good for. Third, you want people to hear your “voice.” Your writing style. Make them want to see it translated into your fiction. Make them WANT more!

So, how do you fit all this into a busy schedule? You take one day, one afternoon. Make a list of five ideas, take them from MMA posts or wherever (we say pretty interesting things on this site). Write 500 words on each idea. Sparkle. Be witty. Check your spelling.

Now, go to all the sites you are on. I’m on 35+. You can post all the blogs and date them to come up once a month or once every two months. There. Done. Forget about them.

OR, take it a step further. Notify friends to come over and check out the clever things you say. Tease them. Ask a provocative question. Invite them to comment.

Be someone they want to read.

I guess the question is, how serious are you about your writing career? How much effort are you willing to put out given your time restraints?

Look, everyone seems to think all this Internet activity is a waste of serious writing time. I remember when there wasn’t anything like this available and the most you could hope for was an article in the local paper. Small press authors had limited money for big promotion. All these sites that have popped up in the last two years are a Godsend to struggling authors. They represent OPPORTUNITY. People like Jeffrey Marks stepped up to the plate and created Murder Must Advertise so people like you and I could connect and communicate. We both know he’s a busy guy, but he did it and the whole mystery community was better for his efforts.

These are just suggestions. You can choose to remain fairly anonymous and wonder why your books don’t sell. You can choose to ignore opportunity and continue to tell yourself you’re too busy. Every day that goes by, someone like me is filling that empty slot.

Okay, I’m stepping down from my soapbox. All of this “wasted” time responding to your post has just given me my next blog! How easy was that?


  1. Sunni is SO right about all of this. Things are changing so fast with marketing and promotion for writers that we are left with our heads spinning wondering which way to turn. Blogging has major impact if we stick with it and build on the image we are creating as bloggers.

    Thank you for a shove in the right direction!


    Comment by Mary Montague Sikes — April 11, 2010 @ 2:14 pm

  2. Blogging, social networking via Twitter or Facebook or online discussion groups . . . these are venues not only for me to meet new people, but for people to meet me.

    There are no written rules for using the Internet to make sales, but I know I like the idea of being intrigued by something someone has said and searching out more about them on my own. People who drop by a site simply to plug their newest book, or only tweet to sell, generally leave me cold and turned off. That translates to taking a little bit more time to make an effort and reveal themselves to the world a tiny bit.

    I’ve read authors, and have still more in my TBR pile, who would not be in my frame of reference without the Internet.

    Comment by Peg Brantley — April 11, 2010 @ 2:42 pm

  3. Okay, okay! I’ll get off my donkey and onto the Internet horse:) jinx

    Comment by Jinx Schwartz — April 11, 2010 @ 2:54 pm

  4. Ha, ha, Jinx and Monti, I told you Sunny was like our personal drill seargent! I agree, sometimes we really just need a nudge/kick in the right direction. And Peg, I could not agree more. The wonderful thing about the net for me is the give and take. If it becomes just a platform to ask for stuff, I tune out. But when it’s about building connections–boy, do I feel glad to live in in the 21st century!

    Comment by jenny — April 11, 2010 @ 2:59 pm

  5. It all follows the writing environment. By that I mean there is no one right way to deal with marketing, just as there is no way that fits all writers when it comes to the way in which you choose to create your written works. There is a ton of advice out there about how/when/where to do promotion and marketing. Asking other writers is a good way to start. How much and what and where you do marketing depends on so many unique factors that there is only one absolute.

    Nobody knows for sure what works and when it works best. Spend no large sums of money with people who assure you they know what works. Test the waters carefully, prudently and keep track so you can make wise decisions and do what is comfortable for you and your situation. Impatience is the most insidious of enemies.

    Comment by carl brookins — April 11, 2010 @ 2:59 pm

  6. Wise words, Carl…

    Comment by jenny — April 11, 2010 @ 3:35 pm

  7. Sunny said:
    Now, go to all the sites you are on. I’m on 35+. You can post all the
    blogs and date them to come up once a month or once every two months.
    There. Done. Forget about them.

    Could you clarify that, Sunny? You were able to post this particular
    piece as a reply to someone else’s question but you wouldn’t be able
    to post a 500 word statement here not relating to marketing and
    similar would apply on other discussion group sites. So what sort of
    sites are the 35+ you are on? And do you just post without asking i.e.
    not as a guest blogger? And do you post the same blog to several
    sites? It seems an option I hadn’t come across before.

    Thanks for any advice here.


    Comment by Roger Hudson — April 11, 2010 @ 4:46 pm

  8. Great question, Roger!

    Comment by jenny — April 11, 2010 @ 5:14 pm

  9. I am currently promoting my novel in just these sorts of venues, and Sunny does make some very good points. It helps to be actively involved in message boards, online forums, and social networking, but you have to keep it fresh. Posting something and just forgetting it only works if something else is drawing readers to that site. The trick is to be constantly thinking of new ways to bring your book into a new conversation.

    Comment by Shelley — April 11, 2010 @ 7:19 pm

  10. Shelley is one of the most innovative and creative marketers I know, and because I’m not the author, I can happily plug her novel–RADIUM HALOS, a story about the women of the Radium Dial factory who were told to lick the tips of their paintbrushes to get nice, sharp numbers on the clocks, never knowing they were ingesting poison. Not a lesson in history, the book is really about one woman’s struggle at the beginning and end of her life, to be heard and respected and loved. Anyway, thanks for stopping by, Shelley!

    Comment by jenny — April 11, 2010 @ 7:30 pm

  11. Well, I thought I knew what worked best for marketing, but that was before the Internet got hot and heavy with all the promotional potential. We wrote a book, Published! Now $ell It! several years ago. The promotional plans and ideas were great for then. Now, so much has changed. I would have to add a lot of chapters, and they would all be about out what to do to promote on the Internet. What an amazing tool!


    Comment by Mary Montague Sikes — April 11, 2010 @ 11:08 pm

  12. Sunny, hi from an old friend and fan. I would add only one thing to your excellent advice and it’s this: Before you spend a lot of time marketing and promoting, make sure you’re a darn good writer first. I’ve run across names who’ve presented an interesting personna via blogs and such and have checked out a sample of their work. Sadly, many times I’ve been disappointed in the quality of their writing and ignored any mention of those names from that point on, no matter how well they promoted themselves. I always advise new writers to spend ALL their time working to become truly skilled writers before even thinking about marketing and promotion. No matter how attractively or aggressively you package a product, once it’s unwrapped, only the quality of the product matters.

    Comment by Earl Staggs — April 12, 2010 @ 5:39 am

  13. It is definitely a brave, new world, Monti, especially right now.

    And–good points, Earl. They all beg another question–what is good writing? That could make for a whole other blog post (or 100)…

    Comment by jenny — April 12, 2010 @ 6:51 am

  14. Thank you. Sunny, the drill seargent, describes her well. But like my real top kick in the army, a much needed one. I struggle with the computer having only recently been converted to its use. But I am on a few blogs now and will add a few more each month. I have already found that it’s not just a marketing tool but sharing ideas with fellow writers makes us better writers, and we don’t have to move to New York to do it.

    Comment by Edward Draugelis — April 12, 2010 @ 8:27 am

  15. Sunny’s advice is right on. There are so many blogs that welcome guests that there’s no excuse NOT to blog, even if you don’t have a blog of your own. I like to think of it as making new friends. Since I write a series with two nosy Puritans I have a wealth of topics to write about — clothing, foods of the period (they tell me I write alot about food in my books….) the Salem Witch Trials, and I could talk about Cotton Mather, the poor misundestood Puritan clergyman, for hours. (Only people seem to fall asleep….)
    Marilyn aka: M. E. Kemp – DEATH OF A DANCING MASTER, out in the Fall.

    Comment by M. E. Kemp — April 12, 2010 @ 10:02 am

  16. Sunny’s no-nonsense advice came at just the right time for me. I’ve signed up for a week’s worth of blogging in May, and when I do these, I often have a tendency to write rather generically. This time, in BSP, I’m going to be sure to mention the title of my latest book every chance I get. I also like Marilyn Kemp’s idea of writing about daily life in her character’s time period. My characters, and I, favor the 1890s.

    Comment by C.K.Crigger — April 12, 2010 @ 10:25 am

  17. Sunny always gives excellent advice, and I was hesitant to reply because to do would admit my weakness, but I love to blog, I love to reply to other people’s blogs, I could blog all day except for one little problem. I get so distracted by all the shiny internet objects I forget what I was doing and end up (1) ordering other people’s books; (2) google stalking other writers, especially good-looking men; (3) end up looking at talking dog videos on youtube; (4) end up somehow on Cafeworld on Facebook and start serving food and then (4) log off after doing all this and end up not blogging about anything.

    You don’t just have to be semi-organized, you also have to be semi-focused. I may have to keep a post it note on my opened laptop while I cruise the internet that says, “BLOG ONLY.” It’s worth a shot, anyway.

    Comment by Holli Castillo — April 12, 2010 @ 12:13 pm

  18. Earl,
    I have come across similar responses to yours, especially from authors who have “made it” and are with a big publishing house. I have listened to them on panels nixing the idea of Internet sites in favor of concentrating on writing first.
    Okay, here’s my problem with that. Say you write the absolute best book in the world. Who knows who you are? I, with my little astrology novels, have already eclipsed you.
    Name recognition can start immediately. Replying to blogs, learning who the bloggers are, expanding one’s awareness of the writing community is important. This is NOT just about promoting books!
    The alternative is to huddle at your computer, ignoring the cyber world until you are ready to make your grand entrance. Guess what? Nobody will be waiting.

    Comment by Sunny Frazier — April 12, 2010 @ 3:50 pm

  19. Well Roger, I can send in an attachment to the sites privately to you. They are the “social” sites that abound on the Interent. They address authors, marketers, readers, publishers, all aspects of the writing community.
    I have put them in alphabetical order and color-coded by month so I know which ones are most active.

    Or, I could put you on the list of authors who I’m guiding through marketing and invite you to the sites. It’s like having a lot of individual websites.

    Or you could hustle and learn much of this yourself by monitoring websites and looking at their “favorite” sites. That’s how I developed my list.

    Or you could wait until the training manual comes out. So many people are asking me for one, especially at Left Coast Crime, that I feel I should put my techniques to paper.

    Comment by Sunny Frazier — April 12, 2010 @ 3:57 pm

  20. Sounds fascinating, ME, and CK–you go, girl! Mention the heck outta that book :) Holli, you’re not the first person I’ve heard admit to the same problem. I would actually endorse the BLOG ONLY approach. My writing machine is a dinosaur that still runs Windows 98 and has NO internet or email on it. When I am submerged in a first draft, I wouldn’t even know if my agent were trying to get a hold of me. (Which, up till this point, ahem, hasn’t exactly been a problem…I mean, it’s not like buildings are being leapt in an effort to reach me.) Please let me know if you do come up with a magic focus method, but in the meantime, as Sunny says, every blogging sentence goes toward growing your name recognition–ensuring that a building or two might one day be leapt in your direction :)

    Thanks again, Sunny, for all the great advice.

    Comment by jenny — April 12, 2010 @ 4:41 pm

  21. Tired though I was after reading Sunny’s post, I wrote down several blogging ideas and drafted one today. Her advice energized me more than caffeine.

    Comment by Carolyn J. Rose — April 12, 2010 @ 5:48 pm

  22. Thanks for the gentle nudge, Sunny. Blogging shouldn’t be any more work than writing. And for those mystery writers out there, we don’t even have to leave any dead bodies behind (unless we want to)

    Comment by Cindy Sample — April 12, 2010 @ 9:29 pm

  23. Way to go, Carolyn! Just call me Starbucks Double Shot!

    Comment by Sunny Frazier — April 12, 2010 @ 9:58 pm

  24. Even small blogs can grow big results. Blogging, as Sunny so aptly pointed out, can be the little engine that could for anyone’s career. Do what you can where you can and keep at it. Its alot easier to sell to those who’ve already heard your voice and love it than to strangers. Rah to you Sunny for keeping it real and realistic.

    Comment by Karyne — April 12, 2010 @ 10:10 pm

  25. Well put, Sunny. I totally agree that a web presence is of utmost importance. I sometimes struggle with balancing promotion and creating output. I’ve blogged about this struggle a few times on my blog, writewithtlc.tlcooper.com. For a little while, the socialization aspect of online groups drove me to such a distraction that I would spend hours answering an email when I could’ve blogged about the topic or been working on my fiction projects. I had to put participation in two groups on hold in order to get myself back on track. When I decided to take a hiatus from the second group I created my blog and discovered a much more centered self. So my point is, find your balance but don’t let the promotional side of your job as a writer suffer in the process. Thanks for the reminder, Sunny!

    Comment by T. L. Cooper — April 12, 2010 @ 10:39 pm

  26. Thanks for all the great comments, everyone, and welcome to the new readers who stopped by. While we’re on the topic, please check out the guest blogging opportunities here at suspenseyourdisbelief–write a Made It Moment–email me about a topic related to the writing life…I hope to create a forum for authors here and Sunny’s post has been one of the most exciting yet!

    Comment by jenny — April 13, 2010 @ 7:15 am

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