How to make your blog work harder

Social media is bewildering. There’s your website and your blog, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon Author Central, Goodreads… you can’t possibly be everywhere, so which ones do you choose? You have to do what you enjoy. Personally, I like Facebook because I can have conversations with people over several days. On the other hand, Twitter is easier to access on my phone, so I dip into that as well. But how do you keep the other sites from looking dusty and unloved? The easiest way is to join them all up.

I’m told that Google likes sites that are updated regularly, so I post to my blog fairly often. Usually around once a week. I also have a link with my Twitter account so that my tweets appear on the blog – new content, technically, but the changes are really small.  I found out that you can link your blog to your Goodreads profile,  your Amazon.com Author central page (not on the co.uk site, sadly), your Facebook page, your G+ and goodness knows what else. So here’s how you do it.

  1. Google+  To do this, log into your WordPress dashboard.

Go to ‘Settings’. Click on ‘Sharing’. You’ll be faced with a collection of other social media sites you can link to. Link up with as many as you want.

Hey presto! Now every time you post something new on your blog, WordPress will automatically send a tweet, post an update on Facebook or Google+ or whatever you’ve told it to do. Neat huh?

The tweets that WordPress generate are pretty vanilla, so if you want to, you can edit the tweet before you press ‘publish’ on your post. To do this, go to the ‘publicize’ button just below the ‘Publish’ button and edit the tweet.

If you link your WordPress blog to your Google+ profile, your posts will now be indexed for Google Authorship.

What the heck is Google Authorship? A good question. This allows any content tagged as yours to be linked to your Google+/gmail profile. In practice, it means that your profile picture appears next to the link when something of yours comes up in a Google search. In theory, people are more likely to click on something associated with a person’s face, rather than an impersonal link. I’m rather hoping that it also gets rid of any confusion caused by the same content being on various sites. I hope so.

 Author Central.com. Go to https://authorcentral.amazon.com/ and sign up for/ sign into your author central account. Once you’re signed in, go to your ‘profile’ tab.

Click on ‘blogs’. Click  ‘add blog’.

For WordPress blogs, put in your blog address with ‘feed’ after it. So www.yoursite.wordpress.com/feed/

Click Add.

It takes a day or so for the changes to take hold, but after that anything you post on your blog should appear in your author central feed within 24 hours. Similarly, you can add your Twitter address on to the site and your tweets will show up.

Does anyone read these? I’m not sure. I figure it can’t hurt.

So there  you have it. Your blog now works extra hard by updating all your other profiles whenever you put on a new post. In my (limited) experience, different people pick up your content from different sites. Of all the links I’ve mentioned above, by FAR the most important has been the link with Twitter. A large amount of the traffic that comes to my blog is driven through Twitter.

Isn’t it marvellous that the social networks, which allow you to share your life/ work/hopes/dreams can now themselves be linked together. A network of social networks.

Which social networks do you use? Any tips or tricks on how to use them better? Please let me know in the comments below.

How to find great images for your blog: Getty Images – free to use if you embed them

Getty images have decided to release a whole load of their images for free if you embed them.

Where to find them:  http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/Creative/Frontdoor/embed (Contains instructions on how to use the embed codes.)
Why is this important?
Getty specifically says that blogs that use Google Ads to make money are not considered ‘commercial’. By extension a writer’s blog that advertises their books in the side bar should not be considered commercial either. However, if you use an image in a book cover or to create an ad for your work, that would be require a licence.
But we can just get the images of Google images by right clicking and saving the image, I hear you cry, so why bother with this embed nonsense? Because the photographer has a right to be acknowledged for their work. It’s a moral thing as well as a financial thing (not to mention a legal thing!). By embedding, you allow the photographer (and Getty) to track where their images are being used  without anyone’s copyright being infringed.
So, in the spirit of sharing lovely things…
Here’s David Tennant

And Matthew McConaughey

And an Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion double whammy!

Hooray for the internet.

Why an unpublished author needs an online presence

Do you need an online presence if you’re an unpublished author? Yes. Oh yes. Here’s why.

Social media wordle

 

4 reasons to start engaging with social media before you’re published:

  1. These days writers have to do their own marketing. An agent/publisher who likes your writing is likely to Google your name, just to see what presence you have online.
  2. You never know who might be listening/reading. If an agent/publisher has heard your name mentioned on social media, they might give your submission a little bit of extra attention.
  3. Readers are hard to find. If you can interact with a particular group as a fellow reader, they will have already hear of you when you make the move from reader to writer.
  4. If you make friends with other writers, you’ll probably pick up tips and bits of useful gossip. At the very least, you’ll see pictures of some nice shoes.

It’s a good idea to have a vague plan. I didn’t have a plan (or a clue?) when I started and I wish I had. My engagement with social media goes something like : Check Email every hour or so, check FB once a day. Sometimes go on Twitter (and inevitably get sucked in by something and waste time). Fail to do any writing. Eat chocolate. Feel fat. This is not a good plan. A better plan would be:

4 step action plan to start out with social media:

  1.  Get a gmail address for all your non personal stuff. (I love Gmail. Google Docs is awesome).
  2. Join one or two forums on Goodreads. Post on there often. Get to know people. Review books that you read.
  3. Set up a website with blog (see here for instructions). You don’t have to update the blog much until you feel you have something to say. You can get your Goodreads reviews to automatically post to the blog so that it gets populated without you having to do much.
  4. Start commenting on other people’s blogs in your genre. If you have to login to post comments, use your website as the login account so that people can track back to your site if they like what you say.

This way you only need to update Goodreads and/or comment on some blogs for a few days and eventually things will add up. 20 minutes each day (or most days), do one thing per day. Only do it at the end of your writing time or you’ll end up wasting all evening. Don’t be scared. You just have to dive in and hope for the best.   Are you terrified of social media? Or have you taken the plunge? How do you do it? Let me know in the comments.

Finding ‘free’ images for a blog

These are series of notes I wrote for my writing buddy Jen (writer of fast and funny YA fiction –  still unpublished, but it’s only a matter of time!). She was not totally sure how to go about this social media mullarkey, so I wrote her a set of ‘how to’ notes, based on my own experience of setting up an online presence. I’ve posted the notes here in case they’re of use to people. The first of these is  a step by step on how to set up a website using WordPress.

Last year, I wrote a blog post about scientists watching Sherlock. I wanted a picture of Sherlock (or of Benedict Cumberbatch, at least) so I looked for one. Being that sort of a geek (I blame the day job), I looked for the BBC policy on using their images in blogs. The policy isn’t aimed at blogs as such, but the basic gist of it was ‘if you want to use one of our images, ask us. We’ll probably charge you for it’. So the post remains photoless.

So, where can you find copyright free images for use in a blog?

First, a word about copyright. Copyright is an automatic right that exists in any creative work. This includes pictures. The copyright belongs to the person who made the creative work (unless it was created under contract – whole complicated other story; always read your contracts). If you’re into that sort of dry detail, there’s a whole load of info on copyright at the UKIPO. http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/copy.htm

If you reproduce someone’s work without their permission, you are infringing their copyright. Besides, it’s not polite.

There are hundreds of images on the web. Some of them are available under a creative commons licence. The best way to find ‘free’ images is to put your keywords and “creative commons” into a Google image search. Click through to the website and see if you can use it. Flickr has a fair number of images with creative commons licenses.

What is a creative commons licence? There’s a good description here http://creativecommons.org/about

The most permissive type of CC licence is an Attribution Licence. Broadly speaking these are images that people don’t mind you using, so long as you acknowledge whom it belongs to. Attribution is a minimum requirement. If you adapt the image, you should still attribute the initial image to the person who made it.

Some licences specify ‘non-commercial use only’. Does my blog count as commercial use? Arguably, I blog for my own amusement, but eventually I hope my blog is to raise the profile of me as an author and, by extension to sell books. This makes it sort-of commercial. So I tend to steer clear of the non-commercial use only images – which is a shame because some of them are really, really stunning.

Now to find an image to go with this post. How about this one?

If I were a bloke, I'd wear cufflinks. I like cufflinks.
Creative Commons by Kalexanderson

(Actually, I love the rest of the images this person has, but they are for non-commercial use and/or sold through Getty… )

Or this one?

Cartoon Bookstack
Bookstack by Hiking Artist

Or, by now, probably this?

For Goodness sake, make her stop!
CC photo by Pink Sherbert Photography

Twitter

These are series of notes I wrote for my writing buddy Jen (writer of fast and funny YA fiction –  still unpublished, but it’s only a matter of time!). She was not totally sure how to go about this social media mullarkey, so I wrote her a set of ‘how to’ notes, based on my own experience of setting up an online presence. I’ve posted the notes here in case they’re of use to people. Last week I posted a step by step on how to set up a website using WordPress.

Seven-Little-Birds by Fat Face & Me

Next thing to do is set up on Twitter. Warning – Twitter is a massive time sink. You open it for ‘just a minute’ and end up wasting a whole evening when you should be writing.

First, go to http://www.twitter.com and get a Twitter account. Pick a name that relates to your books (You can change your twitter handle, if you need to). I used my pen name (@rhodabaxter) and email account. Twitter emails you whenever someone follows you, so it’s best not to clutter up your personal email.

If you follow someone, you can see all their tweets. If someone follows you, they can see your tweets. However, your tweets (and theirs) can get lost at the bottom of a long list of other tweets, so don’t assume that anyone has seen your tweet. On the other hand, Twitter is a very public forum, so you can’t assume that anyone has NOT seen your tweet. So, don’t say anything you’ll want to retract later!

If you respond to someone’s tweet with their @handle at the start, only people who follow you both can see it (Unless someone retweets it…).

Hashtags – things beginning with # which people use to make searching for a particular topic easier. You can search for a particular hashtag and see what people all over the world are saying about it. It’s hard to know the right hashtag to use, but, as with all of these things, you’ll soon pick it up.

Confused yet? There’s a nice intro on how to use Twitter here: http://www.wikihow.com/Use-Twitter .

Twitter is a constant stream of stuff and there is no way you’ll keep up with everything. But, to make the job easier, there are a range of Twitter Clients out there. I use Tweetdeck – it sits on my desktop and sorts tweets into columns: Tweets from people I follow, Tweets mentioning me, direct messages and tweets about hashtags I’m following. As far as I’m concerned, the best part is that I can leave Tweetdeck open in the background and tweets mentioning me appear on the side of my screen as they happen, so I can glance at them and reply. It also lets me schedule tweets so that I can tweet something at silly hours in the morning if I wanted to.

Twitter is a massive conversation and (and this is the scary bit), you have to butt into other people’s conversations. It takes time to get to grips with the idea that this is acceptable. People don’t mind. That’s just the way Twitter works. Honestly.

Conversely, you also have to learn not to take things personally. Other people will butt into your conversations. And some people will just ignore you. Nothing personal. It’s just the way Twitter works. Uhuh.

How does Twitter help you promote a book? I’m not sure it does. What it helps with is ‘meeting’ people and, if you don’t get chance to watch/read the news, keeping up with what’s going on in the world. If you sign up, tweet me.

Setting up a WordPress based website

These are series of notes I wrote for my writing buddy Jen (writer of fast and funny YA fiction –  still unpublished, but it’s only a matter of time!). She wasn’t sure how to go about this social media malarkey, so I wrote her a set of ‘step by step’ notes, based on my own experience of getting and online presence.  I’ve posted the notes here in case they’re of use to people.

 

SET UP A WEBSITE ON WORDPReSS

Building your own web platform.
A couple of things to know – the ‘brand’ is you. The products are your books. The web platform is to introduce people to you first, then your books. Think of it as making friends, rather than selling books. The selling books part is just a bonus.

Setting up a cheap and cheerful website

I didn’t know anything about setting up websites, so I did a lot of Googling and found out how to do it. I’ve listed what I’ve done here, so that you don’t need to waste as much time as I did.Before you start you need:

A list of possible titles for your website/blog. Have at least 3.

A photo for the header (I’ve used a section from one my book covers)

A picture for the background

A credit card

Some idea of what you want the text on the website to be.

Ready?

You can set up a blog fairly easily, and for free, using WordPress or Blogger. You can then customise the way the blog looks so that it looks more like a web page. I looked at a few author sites and found I liked the look of the WordPress based ones better.  (If you scroll to the bottom of the site, there’s usually a sentence saying ‘X theme by XX provider).

 

I’m no expert, but here’s what I did:

Go to wordpress. Click on ‘get a blog’.

Type in the name of your blog. If your chosen name is taken, try your backup ideas.

Sign into WordPress.

You can pay for the more expensive http://www.example.com URL, rather than the free http://www.example.wordpress.com one. The other option is to get the free version of the blog and map an existing domain name that you bought from somewhere like GoDaddy.  – this means you need to map domains. It’s a whole bag of hassle and costs 12 dollars extra. But it means you’re not tied to WordPress.com. Techy explanation here: http://www.dearblogger.org/wordpresscom-domain-or-godaddy)

(I got my domain name from GoDaddy for the ridiculous reason that I dithered it about getting it from WordPress and then changed my mind.)

Pay for privacy – it means that people can’t put your URL into Whois and find your registration information.

Set the domain name to autorenew for 5 years, or set yourself some reminders to do it every year.(I’m a bit hazy on whether WordPress does this – GoDaddy which lets you autorenew). If you forget to pay the domain name fee, your registration will lapse and there’s a chance that a Cybersquatter type person will register the domain name for the next year – so that you have to pay them over the odds to get it back.

It takes a couple of minutes for WordPress to set up the blog.

BOOKMARK your blog in your favourites. Because you can!

That’s it. Now you have a blog. Hooray! Have some celebratory chocolate.

 

Now to make to look less bloggy and more like a webpage.

In WordPress:

Go into the ‘Dashboard’.

On the left hand side you have a list of things. Go to ‘Appearance’ (near the bottom).

Choose ‘Themes’

Pick a theme – 2011 is a good one. So is Pilcrow. Both are free. There are loads to choose from. I tried these ones because they looked simple to use and had could have Twitter and a Facebook ‘Like’ button integrated into them. You can change your theme easily later, if you want to.

Still in Appearance, go to ‘Header’

Follow the instructions to upload your own header image. WordPress will help you crop it to size. Choose your picture/photo as your header. Save. You now have a unique picture heading up you blog. Time for more chocolate.

Making a home page

Go to ‘Pages’ on the left hand menu.

Create a new page with some Welcome info on. Name the page ‘Welcome’ in the Title line. Upload. You should now have two pages on your blog – one with the starter text from WordPress. One with your new text.

Click Edit for the starter page from WordPress. Name it ‘Blog’ in the Title line.

Go to ‘Settings’ on the left hand menu:

Click on ‘Reading’.

The top line should say ‘Front page displays’ – select ‘static page’

On the drop down that says ‘Front Page’ – select ‘Welcome’

On the drop down that says ‘Post page’ – select ‘blog’

That should give you a rudimentary website – with a static Welcome page and a blog page that you can post new blog entries on to.

Whenever you want to edit your blog, just log into wordpress.com and go to ‘my blogs’, then ‘dashboard’.

If you try this, let me know how you get on. If I need to refine instructions, please tell me!

You can find  info about how to find web images for your blog here and here and info on how to link your blog to other social media here.

[Edit: The instructions here are for a blog on WordPress.com. This version gives you a blog that is held by WordPress itself and (in theory) WordPress can pull it down anytime. Also, you can’t use a lot of the plugins that third parties provide. On the other hand, you get all updates/ security etc automatically. Once you get going and have a huge number of pages and posts on your blog, it’s a good idea to back it up from time to time. Y’know. Just in case.

The other option is to get a wordpress.org blog. There are hundreds of blog posts on the difference between the two. (Just Google ‘WordPress com org’). I stuck with wordpress.com because the techy words scared me, but I am aware that I’ll have to pull my big girl pants on and look into it one day.]