Category Archives: blogging

Are you engaging in conversations with the people who care about your writing?

I don’t like the idea of lumping engagement together with self-promotion, because engagement entails caring about other people, while self-promotion involves concern for oneself and one’s work. However, authors who engage appreciatively with their readers and fans will benefit by cultivating goodwill. The act of engagement then becomes one aspect of self-promotion.

There’s no need to explain the benefits of engagement to most extroverts, who already understand cause and effect and use it to their advantage. Most authors, I imagine, are not extroverts, so it can be difficult for them to see the correlation between a particular author’s popularity with readers and the amount of effort that author puts into making and maintaining connections.

Today’s authors almost always promote themselves and their books four ways: online, in person, with video or audio recordings, and in print-on-paper media. Aside from personal appearances, online is where identifying readers who have an interest in a writer’s work is easiest.

Unfortunately, too many writers assume that attracting readers and fans, and their comments, will be a passive process online. They’ll write something, they’ll publish it, and fans will accumulate while the writer is occupied elsewhere. In reality, followers will gather where they find an author behaving graciously—or, failing that, at least brazenly—and with an awareness of the fans’ presence.

Google AlertsAuthors who are not ‘net natives might have a difficult time discerning who is taking an interest in them online, unless they learn something about web analytics, which I encourage writers to do. In addition, there’s a simple way to locate people who are writing online about an author or a book. Authors who care about their readership should set up several Google Alerts in order to be notified via email when and where conversations in which they’re being mentioned are occurring. Then, they can engage with the people who care enough to write about them.

There will be occasions when it’s better for an author to avoid engagement. If a conversation is extremely critical of the writer, then joining the discussion can require more tact than most people possess. Consulting with a neutral third party who is an especially diplomatic communicator, before deciding what to do or say, can be helpful.

In many, if not most, instances the comments about the author will be neutral or favorable, in which case it’s a shame if the writer neglects the opportunity to express appreciation.

Learn more about this topic:

Chris Brogan advises authors how to find and join online discussions

Chris Brogan: An insider’s guide to social media etiquette

Mary Tod: How self-publishing changes the bond between readers and writers

Jane Friedman: How to meaningfully grow traffic to your site/blog

Generosity is a form of self-promotion

To say that generosity is motivated by self-interest seems wrong, until you consider that a feeling of righteousness or the enhancement of your self-esteem or your public image are important rewards.

Now that we easily can act as our own spokespeople online, many of us have assumed almost full responsibility for marketing our products or services—that is, promoting, advertising, and selling our work, as well as analyzing the results of our efforts. Not everyone is comfortable with the task, and perhaps even fewer are effective at self-promotion. Poor results can be due to factors like ridiculous expectations of instant success, open displays of resentment, and dogged determination to ignore the outcome. The hard sell, like a bad pick-up line, can be the reason for failed connections or, even worse, alienation.

We forget that the most natural kind of self-promotion is achieved through generosity. And what could be easier?

Think about the possibilities. Generosity can be as simple as:

  • Giving advice or assistance to a novice
  • Sharing knowledge in the form of how-to guides
  • Congratulating someone on a recent achievement, and maybe sharing the person’s news on your own blog or social network
  • Contributing thoughtfully to a discussion on someone else’s blog or status update
  • Inviting someone to guest blog or participate in a Q&A
  • Offering to coordinate, sponsor, or host a public event
  • Making a product or service available for free, even for a limited time
  • Being attentive to blog comments, questions, email, and phone calls that deserve responses*
*Even a form, or formulaic, response is better than nothing. Particularly online, failing to reply or acknowledge a reply is the equivalent of dead silence and a blank stare, captured for all to see.

There are so many creative, enjoyable forms of generosity to add to the list. Who says self-promotion needs to be all about ourselves? We get attention by paying attention.

Deep down, you knew that all along.

The fundamental you (online)

You can’t escape the fact that you don’t know what you don’t know. And one of the things you don’t really know is what you look like to other people, even though your self-esteem is affected by what others tell you they think of you. Much of the time, they’re not being completely honest. You know that, right?

You might be focused on your physical appearance, because you know that people typically base their first impressions on how you dress and groom yourself. But suppose you’re a writer. Online and in print, predominantly with words, what first impressions do you make on readers?

To imagine how you as a writer appear to readers who’ve never met you in person, you need to figure out how they discovered you and your writing. Did they find your book in a bookstore? Did they read your story in a literary magazine? Did they check out your essay when it was recommended by someone on Facebook? Did they find a link to your blog in someone else’s blogroll? Did they notice when LinkedIn displayed your name and photo under the heading “People You May Know”? Did they receive email from you?

Think about the many different ways people can connect with you and your writing online. Are you making a good first impression every time? All the control you possess, the ability to self-publish, the means of branding yourself—are you using it well?

Some aspects of your online presence might require a little spit shine, fashion consultation, copyediting, or—let’s face it—charm school. If you’re guilty of any of the following, you might be repelling instead of attracting readers:

  1. Your “About” page or “Bio” section is a big blank.
  2. Your headshot makes you look gloomy, topless, or fifteen years younger.
  3. You just copied and pasted onto your blog an entire article from the online publication you most want to write for, because you’re shaky on the concept of copyrights.
  4. Your articles, promotional materials, and blogposts are overrun with typos and grammatical errors.
  5. You’re confident that red text on a blue background will make readers take notice.
  6. You’ve been blogging consistently for three years with an intense focus on a single topic: yourself.
  7. You’ve been blogging consistently for three years but haven’t revealed anything about yourself.
  8. Self-publishing and vengeance are intertwined in your experience.
  9. You’re relying on anonymity or pseudonymity or any sort of artifice.
  10. You’re convinced you can live a better life without ever taking a stand for something you believe in.

It’s not good to obsess over site statistics or a shortage of comments or the slick image you’re trying to achieve. I hope I’m not implying any of that. Rather, there are fundamental, even technical, considerations about your online presence that shouldn’t be overlooked.

To learn how others will perceive you through your writing and your online presence, read what these thoughtful writers have to say about first impressions:

Jane Friedman: Being Human at Electric Speed

James W. Pennebaker: The Secret Life of Pronouns

Seth Godin

Chris Brogan


Great. I didn’t know that fundament had a comical alternate meaning. Too late now; the post is already written. How’s that for coming full circle?

Go here for more laughs.

Predicting demand for book publishing services

It’s no secret that you can discover what consumers need and want by paying attention to what they search for online. Finding an effective way to respond to those demands is a pretty good business strategy.

For example, a blogger might write additional posts to elaborate on popular topics. A software developer could design a platform to streamline the delivery of a sought-after service. A freelancer can offer new types of services based on predicted demands. And job seekers are wise to heed indicators of emerging or expanding markets.

Do you monitor your site statistics to see which search terms deliver the most readers to your blog or website? Are certain search terms beginning to appear more frequently? I watch my site stats on a daily basis, but today I made the effort to view the data for the life of my four-year-old blog.

If your blog is hosted by, you can find the cumulative statistics for the most popular search terms that bring visitors to your blog. Just click on My Blog > Site Stats. Locate the section titled Search Engine Terms and click on This Week. I know it’s counterintuitive. You’ll see a page displaying Search Terms for 7 days ending… Below that header, you can click on 30 Days, Quarter, Year, or All time.

These are the top ten searches that brought viewers to my blog during the past four years:

popular searches

To view the most popular posts during the life of your blog, click on My Blog > Site Stats and find the section titled Top Posts & Pages. Click on This Week, which will bring up a screen displaying the Top Posts for 7 days ending… Below that header, you can select 30 Days, Quarter, Year, or All time.

Following are my blog’s top posts for the past four years. I didn’t include the blog’s homepage, which gets the most traffic by far, much of it driven by Facebook. My blog’s homepage always displays the newest post, so its relative popularity doesn’t tell me anything about what attracted the views.

popular posts

It’s worth mentioning that the older the blog and the larger the number of posts, the better the data.

I’m sharing this information, because I think it’s valuable to anyone in the book publishing business. Individuals conducting online research are trying to find these things, and some of them are willing to pay if you can deliver what they need. Well, maybe not the folks seeking FREE ebooks, I’ll grant you. But interest in submission tracking seems to be growing steadily, judging by the number of times I’ve noticed it in my site stats recently.

Publishing project management and the provision of à la carte book publishing and marketing services have been talked about for years. The popular search terms that brought traffic to my blog indicate that folks are still trying to obtain assistance in these areas. Next week, I think I’ll try to blog about companies that offer one-stop shopping for busy authors who need these services.

Meanwhile, if you’re one of the people looking for screenwriting blogs, try Save the Cat! If you’re a screenwriter looking for screenwriting blogs, did you happen to notice that quite a few authors are looking for book video trailers? And if you’re a blogger, check out Hal Licino’s “Write Effective Blog Posts Using Hollywood Screenwriting Principles.” If only I’d seen Hal’s advice before I wrote this boring post. On the other hand, that wildly popular old FREE ebooks post of mine is a snoozer.

Suggest a blog topic, and I’ll do the research

I blog about creative writing, book publishing, and my work as a literary agent. Much of the time, my posts encapsulate or expand on issues that come up during day-to-day business, but I often wait months before mentioning them here. I write about recurring questions and helpful resources, and I try to make my process as transparent as possible for the benefit of anyone who might be thinking of doing business with me.

Leave a commentThis blog is almost four years old, so I can tell which topics attract the most attention, and they’re not the ones I thought would be popular. Instead of recycling those subjects, I’d like to know what you would like to see discussed here. If you have a question or can suggest a blog topic, I hope you’ll mention it in the comments section of this post.

If you prefer, you may send your question via email to, but please remember two crucial things:

  1. Put “Blog topic” in the subject line of the email message
  2. Include explicit authorization for me to quote you on my blog

I might not be able to answer every question, and of course, I can’t tailor advice to individual circumstances. If I don’t know the answer to a question of general interest, I’m willing to do the necessary research, provided it’s related to creative writing, publishing, or the work of a literary agent.

Your input will help make the blog more interesting and valuable to readers. Thanks!

2010 blog traffic

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a summary:

Crunchy numbers

The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, the blog would have filled about three fully loaded ships.

In 2010, there were 51 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 247 posts. There were 48 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of three megabytes. That’s about four pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was March 8, 2010, with 165 views, and the most popular post that day was Submission tracking for freelance writers.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were:


Some visitors came searching, mostly for:

  • nothing is random
  • book video trailers
  • robin mizell
  • unagented publishers
  • social networking for authors

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

  1. Submission tracking for freelance writers February 2008
  2. Book reviewers on the Web September 2007
  3. Adult trade publishers that encourage direct (unagented) submissions March 2009
  4. FREE ebooks November 2007
  5. Part 8: Book video trailers October 2007

The cost of convenience

The extraneous guillemets in my blogroll and the ads that were being displayed to new visitors finally drove me to distraction. Two upgrades costing $45 annually eliminated both nuisances.

Mike Ho worries about privacy protection in the coming era of cloud computing. Maybe the more obvious problem for many of us will be the rising costs of renting cloud space.

Legal aspects of oversharing

I’m admittedly oversensitive about oversharing, probably because the anticipation and avoidance of it costs so much effort. In spite of universal recognition of and appreciation for the Golden Rule—which, when applied consistently, prevents myriad faux pas—pride, anger, and the speed of unedited blogging occasionally leave prudence and honor in the dust.

To be specific, I cringe whenever I see that someone has posted online a complete copy of email correspondence that, no matter how interesting to the reader or flattering of the sender, was obviously a personal message from sender to recipient.

Of course, plenty of email messages sent en masse do not qualify as private correspondence, even though the sender might not want them to be made public. Nor are form letters private correspondence. However, when a reproduced email message refers to details unique to a discussion between just two individuals, it’s easy to recognize that the message was intended to be personal. I can’t be the only one who’s squeamish about encountering these infringements of other people’s privacy in my RSS feed.

Aside from the Golden Rule, there are two equally important legal reasons for recognizing and respecting both the ownership and the privacy of email.


The author of the email is the owner of the message; the recipient is not. The person who writes the email message retains the copyright even after the email is sent.


Furthermore, the sender of email often has a reasonable expectation of privacy that is protected by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Because many workers have been taught that, with adequate written policies in place, their employers can monitor their company email, those same workers have forgotten that outside their workplace, privacy is still the default expectation. Only by issuing email usage policies do employers overcome the usual expectations of privacy.

When can private email correspondence be made public?

One way to ensure the legality of publishing someone’s email message on a blog is to obtain the sender’s permission before posting. It’s such a simple formality, yet it’s often forgotten. When permission is granted, the fastidious thing to do is acknowledge it along with the reproduced correspondence. Problem solved.

Email that is evidence of a crime falls into a special category. Subpoenas can compel the email sender and recipient to relinquish their private digital files.

Email messages sent to government officials can become part of the public record, available on request in compliance with sunshine (open records) laws.

Maybe overeager recipients overlook ethical considerations when they overshare, because it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. Certainly there’s no danger that the individual who fails to take the effort to summarize accurately instead of copying and pasting will ever be held accountable. But is it worth the risk that I’m the only overscrupulous reader who’ll notice a breach of what is not simply etiquette but law?