Monday, August 2, 2010

Tips for the First Time Author #1 - Blog

Recently I have begun to teach some creative writing classes and I am also writing a monthly column on getting published for a small community magazine . This means that I am regularly asked questions about how to succeed as an author, or how to promote a book once it's written and published. I have also begun to receive really lovely emails from my readers, many of whom have their own writing ambitions and have asked quite specific questions. So I'd like to share with you some of the techniques for making your first book a success.

Number one in importance is: Blogging!

I understand that many established authors are not interested in blogging, or don't have the time. But for any new writer (particularly one who is not yet published!) blogging has become absolutely essential. If you haven't yet published it is an opportunity to collect a substantial body of work that publishers, agents and magazine editors can refer to and so discover for themselves what a literary genius you are. If you have been lucky enough to be published, it provides a way for you to build on what you have written, provide extra content for your readers and keep yourself in the public mind.

No matter where you are in the writing process, it is essential that you start blogging NOW - and keep at it regularly (once a week as a minimum). I am perplexed when I see some people advising not to start your blog until you are published. That is just bizarre. In my own experience, my profile as a blogger was one of the main reasons a publishing house decided to take me on.

There's nothing like a blog for turning you into a legend in your own lunch time, and it's amazing how impressive it can seem to those who are less technically savvy (and yes, that includes many editors, publishers and other industry people). And a blog gives you the perfect opportunity to cross-promote on Facebook and Twitter, making it seem as though you are incredibly prolific, busy and important. And that is exactly what any publishing house is looking for in an author.

Some people express a fear that the things they blog will be plagiarised. Yes, it's a risk, but you should be so lucky. Your major struggle will almost certainly not be being copied, but being noticed in the first place.

In her wonderful book The Frugal Book Promoter, author Carolyn Howard-Johnson also explains the importance of getting a good URL early on. Yes, it's most important to get started NOW, so sign up with Blogger or one of the others - it's easy to route teh blog you've started to your own URL later. But really, one of the first things you should be doing is buying the domain names for your own name (if still possible) and your next book's title (once you know for sure). This is inexpensive and easy.

Some people say they don't know what to blog about - they are afraid of losing privacy or, worse, appearing egotistical. If those are genuine concerns, then may I respectfully suggest that you are in the wrong game. The age of the shy and retiring writer has long gone - J. D. Salinger would never make it in the 21st century, for better or for worse. Yes, you will lose some privacy, but only as much as you choose to sacrifice. And yes, some people will accuse you of being egotistical. Such critics are normally distinguished by their complete lack of success in the world. Bless them and move on.

More and more publishers are expecting their authors to blog and to maintain a presence on social media. And the fact is that surprisingly few do it. If you get started now, and do it well, you place yourself in a privileged - and even cherished - minority.

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