Monday, November 29, 2010

Creating the Destination Blog

With so many writing-related blogs on the web, I've been thinking about what draws my attention to certain sites over and over again. As in, what makes certain blogs reliably fun to visit and others viewed only by chance? I mean, sure, we can keep our content fresh, trade comments with our fellow bloggers, link our blogs to our friends' blogs, and hope and pray industry professionals will drop by for a visit, but sometimes all that's not enough. So what, exactly, is it that grows follower numbers and attracts exponential attention?

After studying the success of friends and admired professionals, I've come to the conclusion that there's more than one way to grow blog popularity. That said, here are what I like to think of as the five types of destination blogs in the writing world:

1. The Published Writer Who Gives It Away for Free on a Regular Basis. Just being published isn't enough to make your blog a destination. Content must change. If you've sold as many books as, say, John Green, your market presence alone will bring traffic. However, John doesn't stop there. With his brother Hank's help, he's created a regularly scheduled series of video blogs (vlogs) that's led to an almost cult-like following (see Nerdfightaria).

2. The Industry Professional. These are the blogs put up by the movers and shakers in the industry. Sometimes they're quasi-anonymous, sometimes they're joint ventures contributed to by various members of an agency. Whichever the case, we writers are drawn to them for their wisdom and industry insight.

3. The Community Resource. These blogs serve the greater writing community. My favorite example of this category is the Adventures in Children's Publishing blog. Every week, blog geniuses Martina and Marissa offer up an assortment of writing advice, author interviews, inspirational success stories, conference reports, categorized lists of the best writing-related blog posts of the week, and news of new titles on the market, which includes book giveaways. With all the quality content, it's no wonder their followers keep coming back!

4. The Niche Hangout. These blogs inform and entertain readers, writers, and fans of a certain genre. For example, writer Catherine Karp has a love for vampire culture, so she started a blog called Suburban Vampire that draws attention from all over the world.

5. The Interactive Hotspot. These blogs consistently solicit reader participation. Examples include writer Suzanne Casamento's blog entitled Question of the Day. Regular visitors keep coming back because Suzanne's blog feels like one big party.

So what about you? What are your favorite types of blogs to visit?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

why searching for an agent is kind of like the high-school dating scene

1. Way Too Much Lusting from Afar--Okay, maybe *lusting* is too strong a word, but if you've seen how badly agents get swarmed at a writer's conference, you might agree that months, maybe years of unrequited lust has been going on at some sentient, albeit intellectual level. Basically, agents (and editors, but that's another whole level of hysteria best saved for another post) are the rock stars of the writing world, and we writers are their groupies. Which leads to...

2. Awkward Conversation--Maybe it's just me (or the situation--see above), but when I finally get a chance to talk to agents in person, I don't know what to say. Instead of swiftly pitching my elevator line, I accidentally use phrases like "um, yeah" and "dude" while discussing the merits of local taco joints and coconut martinis. Or--even worse, if the crush is really bad--I just totally clam up altogether. Oy. Like I said--high school all over again.

3. Getting Naked Together Too Soon--Yeah, my metaphors are twisted, but it's true! As writers, we often show the most coveted agents our manuscripts before they're ready for real-world consumption, leading to...

4. Subsequent Groveling--Like, I know I threw up in your hair and wrecked your dad's car, but pleeeeeeeease give me another chance!!! Sometimes agents do give us another chance, but there's also the very scary (and very real) possibility of getting blown off. I mean, hey--it's not like there's a shortage of writers out there.

5. Going Steady with the Wrong Person--Even if we make it through all the gut-wrenching hurdles (query letters, partial requests, full requests, phone call appointments) and finally receive an offer of representation, it's possible to choose someone who doesn't wind up being our soulmate. In a multiple-offer situation, maybe one agent sells herself better than another. Or maybe Agent B is more humble and modest than Agent A, but in our inexperience and naivete, we don't know any better and make an unfortunate decision. Maybe Agent A isn't a bad person--in fact, you like them a lot on a personal level--but you'd rather just be friends. Leading to...

6. Psyche-Destroying Breakups--Let's face it: breaking up sucks, no matter how much you know it has to be done. Confidence falters, you're scared to jump back into the dating scene, and it's easier to stay home watching The Bachelorette than put on a little black dress and get your butt to the party. Because now you're back at square one: Lusting from Afar.

Monday, August 9, 2010

SCBWI 2010 Summer Conference

There were soooooo many great sessions at this year's 2010 SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, but my friend Martina Boone asked me to write about a couple of my favorites for her Adventures in Children's Publishing blog. The first entry is on author Deborah Halverson, author of HONK IF YOU HATE ME, BIG MOUTH, and the upcoming WRITING YOUNG ADULT FICTION FOR DUMMIES.

Tomorrow, my post covering editor Claudia Gabel's session entitled Think Like a Packager should be up at Martina and Marissa's blog.

Another favorite session this year was given by Chris Eboch, on what she learned writing for the Nancy Drew series. Halfway through her workshop, I realized Chris was the author of one of my daughter's favorite books, The Ghost on the Stairs, which now has a sequel (sold out at the conference bookstore).

It never ceases to amaze me how the summer SCBWI conference is full of awesome from the its opening to closing keynotes, and this year was no exception. The last workshop I attended was co-taught by Michael Bourret, agent at Dystel & Goderich, and Jill S. Alexander, author of THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY. They spoke on what happens AFTER a manuscript is purchased by a publisher, taking time to cover such nuggets as what to do when people ask or expect you to give them free books (tell them the library has copies, since ARCs are expensive to produce, so your publisher will be forced to limit the number they distribute), the optimal size of school visit audiences (NOT the whole school at once, say in an auditorium--better to do a series of individual English class visits), and what happens if you happen to have the same name as someone who writes hardcore erotica and your profiles wind up linked on Amazon (call your agent; he or she will take care of it).

I wish I had time to write more about the conference, but it's one of those days when I need to rush all the kitties to their boarding houses, since I'll be offline for the rest of the week. Other posts about Chris, Michael, and Jill's talks can be found on the SCBWI conference blogs.

Enjoy the rest of your summer! : )

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

back from new york

Whew! What a weekend! How to sum it up? How about an extended remix version of a past-tense, second person ode to Ecclesiates 3?

There was a time for everything,
a season for every activity at SCBWI New York.
A time to check in at registration and a time to celebrate who you got as a table leader at the intensive.
A time to read your own stuff and a time to listen to the pages of others.
A time to give constructive criticism and a time to receive it while taking lots of notes.
A time to discern which comments were overly subjective and a time to make changes after hearing something twice.
A time to network and a time to give the professionals some space.
A time to hole up in your hotel room making sure a manuscript is perfect and a time to press SEND, fulfilling a request.
A time to buy a metro card and a time to get turned around when you exit the subway station.
A time to dine at a deli serving eight-inch-tall sandwiches that won't let you order a half and a time to ask for a box.
A time to walk around the city seeing the sights in nineteen-degree weather and a time to purchase a fuzzy hat.
A time to buy cupcakes even though you're already full and a time to eat one, then feel overstuffed and sick but still satisfied.
A time to check the sign on the side of the train and a time to get off, before the train starts heading the wrong direction.
A time to check the ferry schedule and a time to cut your losses and figure you'll see the Statue of Liberty up closer next time.
A time for coffee and a time for that second cupcake.
A time to hug your friends and a time to rush to the airport after that last incredible keynote.