The Legion Grows: Another Editor Reports for Duty

Red Pen of Doom.jpgMy back was against the wall. The grammar errors were all around me.

“I’m a developmental editor,” I said. “This grammar stuff is kicking me in the tender bits.”

“Fear not, Corey-the-human,” a voice sounded through the darkness. “The Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom is here.”

In a sick-ass flash of power and insight, Thomas, the mercenary copy editor, hacked the manuscript to shreds.

All was right in the world again.

In short, Thomas joined the Legion. Find out more about the mercenary proofreader and read his intro by clicking right here (the link will teleport you to the Human Legion website).

You can look forward to seeing our collaborative editing prowess on display in J.R. Handley’s next book in the Sleeping Legion series: Operation Breakout.

More of an update than an informative post today, but I have some how-to posts coming. I’ll be starting a new series tackling point of view, as this is the most common issue I seem to deal with in my editing work (also the item most people ask me about). Until we cross quills again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always—stay sharp!

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Blogging: Building Your Platform

 

thor-with-leaf

Thor sorting leaves. He knows where to find the good ones.

It’s been too long since I’ve been able to update! I’m writing this post in my bedroom/office/box storage room. Yes, the prolonged move is taking forever, but I will be off to a new state and house by the end of the month. Fortunately (or unfortunately), that means you’ll be hearing a lot more from me in the near future. Oh, Thor is walking/running now…so yeah, busy times!

Today I wanted to take a moment to announce a milestone on the QE page. I’ve met and surpassed 1000 followers! Oddly enough, the last 200+ followers have come during a period of non-activity on my page [insert excuses: moving, baby, editing, writing, stay-at-home dad, military spouse].

So how did the blog continue to generate activity without me at the helm being proactive? I mean, does my blog even need me anymore? Has it gained self-awareness? I wish…

thanksBefore I get into the platform building section, let me say “thanks!” People talk about followers just being numbers. You’ll only make X number of sales from X number of followers. It all seems so impersonal. Speaking from my experience, I’ve received awesome emails from people checking in on me and the family, gained clients,  found collaborative writing partners, joined a Legion, uncovered fellow editors (key wielding clones), and I’m very humbled and appreciative of these relationships. Sales are one thing, meaningful relationships are something much more. So again, thanks for reading and coming back for more.

Building the BlogNow that I’m done gushing, let’s talk brass tacks.

I wrote a how-to post about blogging before: Blogging: What Works for Me. I wrote that post in July of last year when I had hit 400 followers. People were curious about my process, and I’m always happy to share. In it, I offered some tips about how to craft your writing and your activity to increase viewership. Towards the bottom of that post, I wrote a very short paragraph titled, Technical Mumbo Jumbo.  It seems some of that technical hoopla is more essential than I realized.

The technical aspects of your blog are what allow you to reach beyond WordPress and start generating views from search engines and other sources. In the last two months, where I only generated a few posts, those 200+ followers were likely due to me taking advantage of some of the features within WordPress. It’s also due to the type of content I ordinarily post.

Looking at my site analytics I’ve noticed a massive amount of views are being generated from search engines. This was planned. *maniacal laughter* Here are some ways to make your blog more visible outside of WordPress and gain more traffic.

evergreenWrite Evergreen Content. When I say “evergreen,” I’m talking about the shelf-life of the post. Some posts we write are author/editor/blogger/life update posts. For many, it’s a given you will want to reach out to your readers. “I’ll be here at this convention” or “Check out my new release.” There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that those posts won’t be the workhorses on your page. In terms of search engine visibility, unless someone knows exactly what to type, they likely won’t stumble into those posts. The workhorses are the posts that don’t have a fuse or timeline.

There is little chance someone who’s never been to or heard of this page will type into Google, “Quintessential Editor Barnes and Noble Rant.” There is higher likelihood someone might search, “the herald archetype.” Both of these searches will bring up posts from this blog on the first or second page of Google, but one (the archetype post) is far more likely to pull a reader because it’s a logical search term.

The Barnes and Noble rant was a needed outlet for me to express my disdain, but it has little real usefulness to people.  On the other hand, posts about aspects of writing are tools people actively seek out. While your blog may not be centered around writing, finding ways to write content with no shelf-life and high applicability is a good move.

Your Blog Headline is Important. I didn’t realize this at first, but after studying the stats on my page over the course of the last eight months, I can’t refute the numbers. Writing and publishing clever headlines makes me smile, but they have little application outside of WordPress Reader. In fact, they can make your content nearly impossible for someone to stumble into from the endless sprawl of the interwebs.

harry-potter-newspaperThink of your blog headline like an internet search term. While the blog headline may be clever and will snag fresh readers taking advantage of the WordPress Reader, after a few weeks or months it will be buried. Yes, people can utilize tags and categories to find your posts here on WordPress (if they scroll long enough). However, search engines are a much bigger ocean and require more precision.

For example, I wrote about how to anchor readers using setting. I wanted to use a really clever headline for the post. Instead, I went with the very bland Setting: Anchoring the Reader. If someone types in “how to anchor a reader with setting” or “anchoring a reader with setting,” this post is usually on the front page of most search engines. The words a person might use to find this information with a search engine can be different, but the headline contains most of the words they would use.

Know the difference between a category and tag. Tags are the golden ticket. Not only will they allow people in WordPress Reader to narrow down their search and stumble onto your content, it also factors into search engine results. If you couldn’t tweak your headline to nail the topic entirely, you will want to add those missing words, individually, into the tag. Also add tags that are applicable to the topic.

For this post, I’ll likely have [writing, blogging, how-to, advice, WordPress, headlines, understanding, categories, tags, fiction, non-fiction, Corey Truax, dad]. You’ll notice dad there, it seems WordPress dads are always looking for kindred spirits so I always leave a breadcrumb trail. If you’re an author/editor/business person, it never hurts to toss your cats-dressed-vintage-photo.jpgname into the tag of each post. The more posts out there with your name on it, the more likely someone doing an internet search of your name will stumble into your blog.

[Here be rumors and unsubstantiated banter] I’ve read that some users will flood the tag area of their webpage posts. So let’s say you write a post about knitting sweaters for kittens. Some people will copy and paste more than 100 related and unrelated words into the tag field hoping someone searches for a topic and walks into their trap. In my opinion — you kitten sweater knitting maniacs — that’s a good way to ensure an unwary person never returns to your page. I’ve also read that certain search engines will boot your post from their search results if the tag seems like spam. [Here ends the trail of kitten tears]

labyrinthCategories Keep People on Your Page. Categories are how you organize your page. We don’t want readers to feel like they are navigating a labyrinth. I started with five or six main categories. One of them was “Writing.” This was a mistake because it lumped too many posts of different types into one giant category. If someone clicked the Writing category, a massive list of blog posts popped up. Some may have been what they were looking for, some weren’t. I broke “Writing” down into more precise categories: Conflict, Setting, Description, Dialogue, and so on. When I did this, repeat views from a single reader skyrocketed. Alas, some people who came to the page didn’t care about every aspect of writing.

If categories are a new concept for you entirely, WordPress has a page dedicated to explaining what they are and how to make them work for you. Check it out here.

You can really take advantage of your categories by using the widgets included with WordPress. Widgets offer different options that display navigation tools. If you are unfamiliar with widgets, WordPress has a page for you here.

That’s it for today. The last bit of advice I’ll give is this, take the time to understand how to leverage the tools I talked about above. It’s heartbreaking to see people grinding away so hard and not getting readership. Especially when their blog page is how they generate business. Implementing these small tweaks will add two minutes to your process — at most. Those two minutes will ensure your webpage is easy to find, navigate, and use. And heck, maybe your page will achieve self-awareness.

question-markDo you have any tips that have worked for you? Do you understand the bizarre search engine algorithms? There a few more tools I have under my hat, but this post is already well beyond my 1000 word cap. If there’s enough interest, I can write another one with some extra bits of info. Until we cross quills again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always — stay sharp!

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#IndiePrideDay 2016: Support (Update)

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*UPDATES*

Below are books I have currently purchased from fellow WordPress Warriors to support indie authors.  I still have money left to buy more!  Read the original posting below, and be sure to toss me a comment if you have a book for me to snag.

Stuart Aken‘s book Joinings: A Seared Sky

Kent Wayne’s (DirtySciFiBuddha) book Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter

Jacky Dahlhaus‘ book Succedaneum: Living Like a Vampire

Ritu Bhathal‘s book Poetic RITUals

Jenn Moss’ (Rough and Ready Fiction) book The Horned Gate

Meghan Palmer‘s book Devolution: Mermaid Underground

Angelina Kerner’s book Seven Hours: Challenge Accepted

Alexis Rose‘s book Untangled: A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

Jacob Power’s (Jacob Power Design) book Frank Winston


 

Today (July 1st) is Indie Pride Day.  What does that mean?  It means all those indie authors out there will be doing their best to hashtag and promote themselves to victory.  I wish you all the best of luck.  I am a big fan of independently published authors and read books based on their merit, not the power of their publisher.

If you didn’t know this was happening, and you are self published, you should start dropping hashtags with your work like it’s the cool thing to do (#IndiePrideDay and #IndieBooksBeSeen).

So here’s what I’m going to do.

First, I’m going to toss a literary bone to a good friend of mine M.L.S. Weech.  Weech is a fellow member of the Brown Pipe Gang (a writer’s group) and indie author.  He wrote a great post about his experience self publishing and it’s worth sharing.  You can find it here.  You can also check out his book The Journals of Bob Drifter.  You message him and he will probably sign a copy for you and sprinkle magic pixie dust on it for you too.  You can also check out his book here on GoodReads and see if it is something you would enjoy – I know I did.

Journals of Bob Drifter.jpg

Secondly, I’ve set aside 50 dollars (I know, big spender) and will purchase a copy of your digitally self published book if you leave a link to it in the comments box with a brief description for visitors to read.

Promote yourself.  Tell us about your book.  I can’t promise I will read it right this second, but I will read it eventually (and/or my wife will) and leave you a honest review.  The rub is I have only set aside 50 bucks, so it’s a first come first serve kind of deal. Regardless of whether or not you make the cut – you can at least have another way to shamelessly promote yourself.

The point is this – as budding authors breaking into the field, and readers who enjoy the medium, we should be helping each other out.  It’s staggering to see how many readers out there won’t even give an indie author a chance.  One hand washes the other.  Even if you don’t have a big budget, take some time and find an indie author (many of their eBooks are free and many more just cost a couple dollars) and give them a try.

That’s it for today.  Tomorrow we will start hammering away on writing tips again and get back into the old grind.  Until then, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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Digital Killed the Paperback Star…or did it?

time cover July 11.jpgMy weekly Time magazine came in the mail a couple days ago.  The cover shouted in red, white, and blue letters, “240 Reasons to Celebrate America Right Now.”  I was holding Thor (my baby boy) so I ended up flopping it open on kitchen counter with my free hand.  I read articles out loud to him, if he cries, I know the article is boring.  Perfectly nestled in the centerfold was the title of the 64th reason to celebrate: The death of the bookstore was greatly exaggerated.  I read it out loud, Thor giggled.  Okay. Maybe he didn’t, but that would of been quiet the hook huh?

The article, written by Lev Grossman, provides a brief snapshot of how independent bookstores are doing.  The outlook was pleasing.  Here are some takeaways and why it should matter to you as writers and as readers.

Independent bookstores are doing better than the media wants you to think.  According to the article bookstores have been growing in numbers steadily for the last seven years. Climbing from 1,712 all the way to 2,311 (Grossman cited the American Booksellers Association for these numbers).  The growth was attributed  largely to new technology making inventorying libraries easier for small businesses and social media allowing for low cost advertising.

The next reason for this growth jumped out at me; these independently ran bookstores operate in a niche market.  Grossman provided a quote from one independent shop owner (Brian Lampkin, owner of Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, N.C.) who stated, “We’re letting Amazon and Barnes & Noble take care of the best sellers.  Where are you going to get poetry?  Some Barnes & Nobles you walk into, you’re lucky to find Emily Dickinson.”

This quote brings me to my first point.

bookstoreamersterdam.jpgAs indie authors, citizen writers, and artists – why wouldn’t you go and support those who exist to support you? 

If you are a writer of any medium, you should be walking into the local bookstore and seeing what they have going on.  You may not be J.K. Rowling or Stephen King (yet), but in your town or city, you might be the best thing since sliced bread.  Even better, these struggling businesses want you to talk about your work with customers, they want poetry readings, they want the local flavor to come in and mix and mingle.  It’s a powerful, and often times free, tool to reach out from beyond the glow of our computer screens.

I have indie author friends who made sure to go to local bookstores and get their work up on the shelves.  I know from the Instagram photographs, Facebook posts, and conversations we’ve had that seeing their work sitting in a bookstore shelf was one of the highlights in their journey.  Good luck wandering into a Barnes & Noble with your box of books and seeing if they will put them on the shelves.

Moving on!

print is dead.jpgPrint isn’t dead.  Digital may have punched it in the face, but it’s still in the game.  Grossman provides an interesting statistic.  “Last year the share of e-books
(at least the non-self published kind) actually receded to 24%.  The book market appears to have rebalanced itself into a complex mix of paper and digital, with neither format completely dominating…”.

This is an important thing to consider when you decide what formats you are going to produce.  I know plenty of indie authors who only sell e-copies of their work.  The worry is they won’t be able to recuperate the costs of printing.  But perhaps the tides are changing and there could be profit to go to print?  Even if it is just a limited print.  Especially if there are local stores who are willing to let you throw down a table, do readings, and toss your books up on the shelf.  It is something to consider as you move through the process.

If you want to worship, go to the temple. In wrapping up, I urge you to go check out your local book haunt.  Plenty of these places aren’t making much money doing what they are doing, and to them, that’s not the point.  They do it because they have a passion for print.  They love the look and smell of a wall of books.  Ask yourself, are we so different from them?  Are you making millions from your writing right now?  Even if you are, is that why you do it?  To be a successful writer the element of passion must be there.  Surround yourself with those equally as passionate and see your fortunes rise.

4th of july.jpgThat’s it for today.  To my fellow Americans, I hope your 4th of July is great and you are surrounded by those you love.  To my friends outside of our borders, please enjoy the endless videos of us crazy American’s blowing ourselves to smithereens with pyrotechnics.  I, for one, will be taking a day off from the blog to celebrate the 4th. We will hit the ground running on Tuesday. Until then, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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