Blogging Alternatives for Authors: Choosing Your Stage and Microphone

As many of you know, I’m a diehard blogging fan. Approached well, it can broaden our readership, strengthen our writing, introduce us to fabulous friends, make us more appealing to industry pros and help us land freelance gigs. If you’re a blog-o-holic fellow fan, you’re probably nodding your head right now. Others of you, I suspect, are somewhat skeptical.

I led a blogging workshop at a conference recently and asked, “Who here has a blog?” Most every attendee raised a hand. When I prompted them to keep their hand up if they enjoy the process, all but one shot down.

I realize that not all aspects of writing are pleasurable, but I believe that many can be. I also believe that forcing ourselves to partake in optional activities we detest can work against us. Regardless, blogging isn’t for everyone.

Blog choices

We’re crazy-fortunate to be writers in a day rich with freedom and opportunity. The question isn’t if we’ll be published, but when and how. We also have a broad range of choices when it comes to book marketing, branding and the beloved author platform. (Note the sarcasm; I know few authors who jump up and down at the sound of the P-word.) I view “brand” simply as who we are—as people and writers, and “platform” as the stage and microphone we use to share ourselves and our work. The more we’re read, heard, seen and/or appreciated, the stronger our “stage,” “microphone” and audience become. And there’s no one or “right” way to enhance or utilize any of them.

When To Make Changes, Quit or Avoid Blogging

If you don’t enjoy blogging, you may want to consider tweaking your habits and approach. If you loathe it regardless, why do it? Hating blogging, but forcing ourselves to do it anyway, is a lot like following a tasteless diet and tedious exercise routine, in my opinion. It won’t stick, provide lasting results or prove worthwhile. We may even go bonkers in the process.

I’d also suggest not blogging, or seriously shifting your habits, if it’s taken priority over your primary writing—unless you’d prefer to build a blog in lieu of books. You may also be rockin’ your author platform without blogging, or detest the notion of even starting. While no one tool or medium works for everyone, it’s important that we present ourselves somewhere–preferably beyond our living rooms. If blogging isn’t your cup of novel-tea (ba-dump), I’d suggest the following:

5 Alternatives to Blogging for Author Platform Building

1. Rely on other social media platforms. I’ve heard Facebook and Twitter called micro-blogging, and for good reason. They, and other social media platforms, offer many of the same benefits blogging can—if we use them consistently, present ourselves authentically and avoid telemarketer “BUY MY STUFF!” techniques. (Thank goodness those don’t work. Blech.) If you’re unsure as to which platform to focus on, experimenting with a variety can help. For tips on using Google+ for building your platform, check out Marcy Kennedy’s post on Jane Friedman’s blog. For Twitter basics, InkyGirl’s free Writer’s Guide is groovy. To learn the benefits of Facebook pages versus personal profiles, check out Lisa Hall-Wilson’s post on Jami Gold’s blog.

2. Write guest posts for other blogs. Guest posts build content much the way personal blogs do, and introduce new readers to our voice and work. They can also make nice additions to our main author and social media sites. (If you’re on Pinterest, for example, create an interview/guest post board.) For best results, choose blogs you appear on wisely. There are loads of fantastic blogs out there—well-written, compelling sites with interactive readers and lofty readership. Countless others have lower-quality posts, very few followers and little interactivity. Before seeking or accepting a guest post opportunity, ask for demographics and stats, unless you have a good grasp of and respect for the blog’s content already. We can also learn a lot about a blog by skimming through posts, comments and social media shares.

3. Read, follow and interact with authors who do blog. Blogging isn’t the only way to engage in the blogging community, in which there is tremendous value for authors. (It’s one of the most supportive writing communities I feel we have access to.) Make sure you have a Gravatar profile, so that your photo and profile link accompany your comments when applicable, then seek out and read blogs that strike you. Sharing links to posts we find compelling on social media helps us, the post creator and readers who benefit from the links. When we share valuable content, we attract like-minded followers.

4. Contribute stories, articles and pitches to magazines, journals, contests and websites. Being findable on search engines and having plentiful online content are major blogging perks. We can get these same advantages by contributing stories and articles—paid or not—to print and online publications. (Exposure and experience are valuable “pay,” particularly in our early days.) Short stories can boost book sales, by serving as leverage during price-drop promotions and adding to our body of work. (A reader who loves your short story will be more likely to buy your books, and vice versa.) Entering writing contests can help instill deadlines—another perk of blogging. Winning brings us recognition, enhancing our reputation.

5. Write awesome book after awesome book, and team up with fantabulous reps and/or marketing gurus. I believe that high-quality work attracts and breeds success, regardless of what we do otherwise—and obviously, writing book after book is vital for all career-oriented writers. On occasion, a book does so well with readers or publishing pros, word-of-mouth (including others’ social media) and/or a powerful marketing force takes care of the whole shegang. If you can manage and enjoy that, kudos! Sadly, most of us aren’t so lucky. The harder we work, and the more high-quality work we produce, the better off we’ll be. Meanwhile, if we’re resistant to blogging and other social media, we best team up with qualified others who aren’t.

Speaking of blogging writers, a group of us are highlighting a special one today. Susie Lindau, a prolific blogger I’m honored to call friend, is facing breast cancer with courage, heart and humor. Please take a peek at her latest post, The Boob Report: Laughter is the Best Medicine, and you’ll see what I mean. ♥ She’ll inspire you, whether you’ve joined the blogosphere or not.

Susie gang 2

Lynn Kelley, Susie Lindau, Debra Eve, me and Debra Kristi

How do you feel about blogging? Any alternatives to add? What’s your preferred method of platform building, on or offline? Or would you rather hide away in a remote cabin, type-typing away? (We all have days like that!)

Fearlessness and Frozen Peas: Takeaways From Anxiety

“When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” — C.S. Lewis

Well, Mr. Lewis, I apparently have not. When the kindly doctor man peered in my mouth and proclaimed the need for oral surgery recently, my maturity fell away. I felt like a five-year-old kid fearing booster shots, the boogeyman, blindness (too many episodes of Little House on the Prairie).

I consider myself relatively fearless. I’ve overcome my share of hardships, certainly worse than wisdom tooth extraction. But the thought of someone forcing me unconscious, stealing my mind with the prick of a needle, left me vulnerable and naive, fighting thoughts of I WANT MY MOMMY!. I must have had some semblance of grownup thought left, as I took the first available appointment—a mere three days later.

Then with clammy palms and my heart already racing, I hit the gym. I posted a comment about anesthesia-phobia on Facebook, shared the news with kin, and pounded out my angst on the elliptical machine. It’s a blessing, I told myself. I have insurance. Dentistry’s come a long way! Think about people without food on the table, much less medical care. It’ll prevent complications down the road. And who wants an infection? Just because some people have suffered heart attack, stroke and death on the table, doesn’t mean YOU will. The wavers you signed were precautionary…Would you rather feel the surgeon cut into your gums, remove part of your jawbone and remove the innocent tooth that’s been with you for years? 

Great. Just what I needed—to feel sadness over parting with the detrimental bone.

The morning of the procedure, I woke up with feelings nearly identical to my last brush with anxiety. Last year after pitching and submitting to a bunch of agents, two emailed me the same day, requesting phone conversations to discuss representation. For whatever reason, I felt far more anxious about the phone calls than I had about pitching. What if I said the wrong thing? Or something stupid? Changed their minds mid-call? Though I anticipated positive results, I struggled to sleep the night before and woke up trembling in a giddy pre-heart-attack-like buzz. Just like tooth day.

The extraction went smoothly. I was in the operating chair for less than an hour and on my sofa, decked out in frozen peas shortly after. The doc was right: I simply fell asleep then woke up, groggy and relieved with the procedure behind me.

Over the next few days, it struck me that we’re often the most fearful before something positive happens. I’m not talking about the fear we rely on for safety, but the angst that comes with growth. Perhaps I wasn’t simply nervous about talking to agents, but landing one. Afraid of success. Of growing out of the comfort zone called “newbie” I’d been longing with my whole heart to grow past. Of measuring up to new status.

Sitting down in the dental chair was much like picking up that phone. I was anxious, but buckled down to do what I trusted was right. I took one step at a time, guided with my instincts, relied on support from others and knew that if I just kept going, all would pan out fine. You’re going to be fine. Just breathe. This is good. I didn’t bottle my feelings up, but shared, respected and coped with them. And both cases, I’m grateful to say, turned out well.

So perhaps I have grown up. Even so, I’m glad I can still connect with the fearful child I used to be. She’s as important as the adult I’m becoming.

I suppose if I learned anything from my tooth ordeal it’s this: Anxiety can be a very selfish state, if we allow it to consume us. And fixating on fear only fuels it. If we accept angst as part of the deal, part of the price we pay for growth and success, we become more empathetic, better friends and more likely to plow through ceilings to reach our goals. Oh, and little beats frozen peas for jaw pain.

My Jaw-Pain BFF

Fabulous related posts:

Marcy Kennedy: Do You Worry You Won’t Succeed as a Writer?
Tameri Etherton: Size Doesn’t Matter
Surgery Music: Going Under the Knife: Are You Afraid of Anesthesia?

Are you an anesthesia or something-else phobe? How do you manage anxiety? What have you learned through coping?

Butter Heads and Blog Awards

Did My Mother Put You Up to This?

Shortly before I swapped my acting career for writing, a casting director said something I’ll never forget: “You look so familiar… Ever had your head carved out of butter?”

I knew immediately that he was A) from Minnesota, where head-butter sculpting is celebrated, B) had a bizarre dairy-chiseling fetish or C) knew my mother. (Mom’s been known to set people up for such…adventures.) Before I could speculate further, he  revealed himself as a MN State Fair groupie. So I busted out my best Fargo-like accent and ended up landing the job. (Nothin’ wrong with some extra edge, yah know.)

While I’ve never donned the Princess Kay of the Milky Way crown—an honor given by the MN Dairy Princess Program each year (And yes, winners’ heads are actually carved out of butter and put on display…), I’ve recently gained a bunch of nifty blog awards. And like the C.D.’s question, the warm fuzzy flurry raised surprise and suspicion: Hmm…Did my mother put you up to this?? 

Regardless, tremendous THANKS to Marc Schuster, Kourtney HeintzMarcy KennedyJessica O’Neal and NM for the Versatile Blogger honors, Debra Kristi for the Inspiring Blogger Award and Sharon K Owen for the Leibster. Y’all deserve these accolades and more. Wish I could carve you out of butter! (I mean that in the BEST way possible.)

*DRUM ROLL* I present these awards to…

1. Marla Martenson: Metaphysical Matchmaker
2. Pat O’Dea Rosen: Reading, Writing and Rambling: Comments and observations on books, movies, writing, travel and other things that strike our fancy
3.  Violets and Cardamom
4.  Ellis Shuman Writes: A Virtual Home for my Writing
5.  You’ve Been Hooked: Observations from the Trenches
6.  Ray, of The Journal Pulp
7.  Lance, of My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog
8.  Tameri Etherton: A Cup of Tea and Sourcery
9.  Little Miss Vix: The Journey of An Aspiring YA Author
10. Jennifer L. Oliver: World Beneath An Evening Star 

1. Reflection of a Buddhist Monk
2. Natalie Hartford: Life Out Loud: Be yourself…Everyone else is taken.
3. Joe Bunting of The Write Practice: Practical Inspiration
4. Write On, Jana! Random insights on health, happiness, housekeeping and the pursuit of margin…
5.  Holly Kammier: Could Have Been Hollywood

1. Moe and Moe’s LA Adventures
2. Unpublished Patti
3. Minerva, of Finding the Right Words
4. Sanjiv Bhattacharya: Something Good is Going to Happen
5. Cadbury Fife: Cadbury’s Detective Agency and other works of unimaginable genius 

WINNERS! Please pass your award on to 15 others and share 7 “random facts” about yourself and the award logo on your blog. For more details, visit: Versatile Blogger Award or Leibster Blog Awards. Have fun!

7 Random Facts About Yours Truly:
1. I’m an ambi-vert—equal parts intro./extro.
2. I’m the average of my parents’ heights: 6′ 4″ and 5’3″.
3. I’m a sagi-corn or capri-carious—depending on which horoscope’s better.
4. I like kids, especially my coolio niece pack, but don’t intend to have any.
5. I do, however, parent an American bull dog named Zoe—a.k.a., my heart.
6. I dream of performing in a bestselling writers band like Rock Bottom Remainders. (If Mr. King happens upon this, I’m available!)
7. My first novel, IN HER SHADOW, is a psychological thriller that began as a memoir.

Gotta ask. Have you ever had your head carved out of butter? Other foods? What odd questions have strangers asked you?