Catching Up

Happy April and National Poetry Month!
I've been immersed in writing for my master's program the past couple of months, and so haven't had a chance to blog. But I did want you to know about some exciting happenings.
First, The Writer magazine is excerpting the first chapter of my 2010 book on publishing industry changes in its May issue, which should be on newsstands soon. I am delighted! Many of the trends I saw emerging two years ago have come true in spades, particularly the explosion in self-publishing. Pick up a copy if you have a chance. And thanks to Elfrieda Abbe and Writer mag senior editor Ron Kovach for publishing it.
My column for April is up (see it here), dealing with how to improve your writing platform by speaking and becoming an expert in your field.
Tomorrow, tune into WTBQ in New York (9 a.m. Pacific, noon Eastern), when I'll be a guest on Dr. Stephen Frueh's radio show, "The Marriage Conversation." We'll be talking about how writing can be a powerful tool for strengthening a marriage - or any relationship. You can listen to it live online. Just click on the "listen now" button.
I'll be reading my poetry with my Sunday Poetry Group here in Santa Barbara on Sunday, April 15, from noon to 2 p.m., at Karpeles Manuscript Museum. Come by if you're in town. This month there are dozens of poetry events in Santa Barbara. You can see the schedule here.
Let me offer a plug for my friend Christopher Moore's new book, Sacre Bleu, out this week. If you haven't discovered Chris' wonderful, wacky and fun books, you are missing out. I can't wait to read his latest.
Wishing you continued success in all your writing endeavors! As always, would love to hear your news.

Why Should Writers Blog?

As I said in my recent blog 12 Ways to Build Your Platform in 2012, blogging is one of the most effective and efficient ways to build your platform, or brand, as a writer. And when you go out with your shiny new novel or nonfiction book proposal to find an agent, the first question the agent is going to ask is: What is your platform?

So, a word about platform. Essentially, it’s what you’re known for.

Do you have expertise in a particular subject, say, quantum physics, or training pug dogs? You can use that experience to create a platform. Blog; speak in your community, or, if possible, at state and national conventions; offer to lecture at the local public library; write op-ed pieces for your community newspaper. All of these things build your brand, fill out your resume and establish you as an expert in your field. Then if you write a book, you can point to that exposure as evidence of your “saleability.” Publishers today rarely take a chance on an unknown author. The more you can do to build a fan base, the better off you’ll be when you approach an agent or a publisher with a book proposal.

Today, blogging is the most expedient way to build a fan base.

The key, though, is to develop a theme or purpose so that you can offer your readers something valuable. Nonfiction writers – especially those who have a following already – will find it easier to establish a blog. Whatever it is you write about – be it antique clocks or the hip-hop music industry – it will likely lend itself to a blog that can be updated two or three times a week, if not daily.

For fiction writers, developing a theme can be tricky. I suggest writing a blog as one of the characters in your book. It doesn’t necessarily have to follow the storyline in your novel. You know the character; create some new scenarios for him/her to respond to, and let that voice populate your blog. You could even write it from several different characters’ voices, essentially creating a new online story.

To be effective, a blog needs to be written every day, or, if that’s not possible, at least every other day. In cyberspace, people expect something new every time they return to your site, so to be relevant and effective, you have to blog regularly. And you have to have something useful to say every time you blog.

In addition to being timely, the very best blogs have great writing, contain content that can’t be found anywhere else, provide something no one else does (information, a service or a product), are relevant, and provide links to other sources.

“Build your audience on the Internet (or otherwise) before you approach an editor or agent,” literary agent Doris Booth advises. “If you can say 25,000 or 50,000 people visit your blog every month, and they are all talking about and sharing what you’re writing on the subject of, say, Yo-Yos, then you are a much more attractive candidate to become published. Build your audience as a speaker or a journalist with a huge following, in any way you can. Celebrities get published because they have vast, already-established audiences. It is harder to build an audience if you’re a novelist, but not impossible. Visit the sites of successful authors such as Gayle Lynds, Heather Graham, and James Patterson and see how they draw attention to their work.”

(Some information in this blog appeared in my 2010 book Navigating the Rough Waters of Today’s Publishing World, Critical Advice for Writers (Quill Driver Press), available on Amazon.)