The Single Best Way to Get New Blog Readers

How do you get more people to read your blog? What is the single best trick to capture more readers? What’s the absolute best to way to generate immediate excitement and persuade more people they should click over and read what you wrote?

Did that opening paragraph grab your attention? Are you dying to find out what this amazing tip is? Well, do yourself a favor and go back and read the opening paragraph again. Now go back to Facebook or wherever you saw this post and take a look at it one more time. Notice anything? It’s a trick newspaper editors and marketing experts have been using for centuries: an opening paragraph that grabs the reader’s attention right from the first word.

In the news industry it’s called the lead. It’s a quick summary of the entire story’s most important highlights in the very first paragraph. In marketing, it’s called the hook because it reels the reader in and, if done right, won’t let go.

Why is this so important in a blog? After all, you’re not writing news or marketing, so why should it matter? It matters because you’re still trying to capture readership and gain subscribers.

Take another look at the Facebook page where you saw this. How much of the blog appears in that tiny window? It’s basically the first few lines. Which means that’s all readers are going to see before they decide whether to either click and read (yay!) or ignore and move on (boo!).

Now, obviously the rest of your blog needs to be interesting and informative in order to maintain the new readers and develop a loyal following, so don’t neglect the rest of your content. But pay special attention to the opening lines. They will make or break your blog’s popularity.

How Do You Like Your Reviews: Fried, Poached, Scrambled?

No, this is not a poorly veiled attempt to solicit reviews of my new book. (Although feel free to order copies for everyone you know.)

I’m asking a serious question to all you seasoned authors out there, the ones who have multiple books on shelves everywhere: what do you think of reviews? Do you like them? Love them? Despise them? Ignore them? Want to tear the reviewer a new one? Or give her a big hug and take her on book tour with you, all expenses paid?

My first novel just came out last week, so it’s too early for reviews, but I know they will come. How did you prepare for them? You all faced this inevitability when your first books finally hit the shelves. Share your secrets for how you deal with reviews, both negative and positive.

What about paid reviews from sources like Kirkus? Do you shell out money for reviews? Does paying for it bias the reviewer to say nice things? Isn’t that bribery? (If you don’t like what they say, can you get your money back?)

Tell us your thoughts on reviews. What do you like? Not like? How do you handle bad ones? Post your comments below.

Cruising the Amazon

Is this the new criteria for being an official published author? My book is now on Amazon. Some would say this is simply another sales channel. After all, Random House and others also have books all over Amazon. Big deal, right? Or has Amazon become the benchmark now for becoming a serious writer?

On the one hand, anyone can write a book nowadays and, thanks to digital publishing, can produce your work in paperback or electronic format with minimal cost and nearly zero oversight. Amazon has very loose criteria for what they will print. Basically, if you can type, you can write a book. Nobody said it had to be a good book. And you may never sell a single copy to anyone but your own family and friends.

On the other hand, Amazon is the world’s largest book distributor, so if you play your cards right you could become the  next overnight publishing success, shatter Amazon’s own sales records, stuff the front displays of every book store across the country, appear on talk show after talk show, and negotiate the rights to an eventual Oscar-winning film based on the work it took your five years to write in your spare time while juggling your job and all your other grown-up responsibilities. It could happen. Just ask JK Rowlings. (No, she didn’t publish through Amazon, but you get the point about overnight success, right?)

So what are your thoughts? Does having your book appear on Amazon lend it extra credibility? Or is it just another sales channel? Post your comments.

Interview with New Author L.M. Stull

I have had the pleasure recently of getting to know new author L.M. Stull, who has recently released her debut novel A Thirty-Something Girl, a chronicle of a, well, thirty-something girl named Hope, who is struggling with her adult life not quite working out the way she thinks it should.

Life has been anything but kind, and everything that can go wrong has. At an age when life should be coming together, and questions should start to be answered, Hope finds herself feeling very alone and terribly confused. As her life spirals out of control, she realizes she needs help. And she needs it quickly.

With the love and support of some dear friends, Hope slowly begins to find her true self, and along the way, she meets someone. Someone who makes her feel like living to see another day might just be worth it.

But with happiness, comes pain. Pain from a past that simply won’t be forgotten. Walking a dangerously fine line between joy and utter despair, Hope wonders if happy endings really do exist. And if they do, is there one waiting for her?

When did you come up with the idea of A Thirty-Something Girl?

The idea actually came to me while I was putting the finishing touches of what was originally slated to be my debut novel, Memoirs of a Monkey. As with most of my book ideas, it was during the wee hours of the morning when I was supposed to be sleeping that the muse began to poke and prod me (my muse is mean… ha). It started with the opening, then more and more of the story came to me. Finally, I was so distracted by Hope and her story that I had to stop working on my rewrites and edits of Memoirs. The story came pouring out of me, and spoke to me like nothing had ever before. That is when I knew that this was the type of writing I was meant to do.

The typical author advice (for good or for bad) is to “write what you know.” How much of that went into A Thirty-Something Girl? What inspired the character of Hope? Any bit of autobiography involved in the book?

I completely agree. If you write about something you are passionate about, you will be amazed at how that emotion bleeds onto the page. I hold a degree in psychology, so the human condition, emotions, and the mind have always been something that fascinated me, so my stories tend to center around my characters’ feelings and interactions with each other.

A Thirty-Something Girl is not an autobiography. However, with that said, the emotional struggles that Hope encounters, as well as her personal journey to find happiness, are very personal to me. So, yes, in essence, my very own life inspired the character of Hope.

How long did it take you to write A Thirty-Something Girl, from start to finish?

I word-vomited this book out. From start to finish (including rewrites and final edits), it took me six months to complete.

Many authors write more pages than actually appear in the finished product, much like movie directors who cut out entire scenes. (A reviewer on Amazon even said your book made her feel like she was watching a movie.) How many pages/words did you actually write before it was whittled down to the final book?

I only cut about 3,000 words from this manuscript. Unlike my previous larger works, the editing process for this book comprised of refining the words that I had originally written to make them stronger/clearer.

Take us through your writing process.
I am and am not a plotter (confusing, right?). I do outline the basic storyline of the book using index cards to map out the main character’s journey. As for all the bits and pieces that go between those major acts, well, they come as I write them. I also write character cards to help me get to know who I’m writing about. I’ll often even write little snippets in their voice to help connect them with me. And, as I am a very visual person, I scour the internet looking for pictures of what these characters might look like.

What was it like trying to write a major novel and hold down a full-time job at a law firm at the same time? Did you write it all at home? What was a typical day like?

Um, hard! I write all at home (and at coffee shops). There are days when I get home and I simply cannot write, even though I very much want to. Creativity, like muscles, need exercise, so I do try to write a little each day. Whether it be a blog post, journal entry, or even simply three lines in my WIP, I write.

Most of my novel writing occurs late at night. There is something about the blackness and stillness of night that gets my muse going. Which can be unfortunate, since I end up staying up very late on work nights. But…it’s all worth it.

Last, but not least, is there going to be a sequel?

I have actually thought about that. I think, in the very future, there might be a Forty-Something Girl and will be told from the vantage point of one of Hope’s friends. We shall see what happens in time.

_____

A Washington, D.C. native, L.M. Stull spends her days chained to a desk at a law firm in southern Virginia. When she’s not feverishly taking orders from attorneys, she writes. Her stories tell of the human spirit – sometimes sad, sometimes not – most can relate to them on some level or another.

Website: http://lmstull.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lmstull

Twitter: @LMStull

Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords

And the Ecstasy! It’s Published!

I finally got word this morning that Absolute Authority is ready to go! So I quickly approved the files and sent that puppy to the press. Buy your copy today! Here’s how…

Click here to buy it directly from CreateSpace, Amazon’s publishing house. You can expedite shipping and get it in time for Christmas.

Or…

You can wait until next week and order it off Amazon’s regular website when it makes its official public debut.

The price is the same whichever way you order it, so the only thing you have to ask yourself is, how fast do you want it? How about ordering it today? Yeah, I think that would be a great idea! After all, who wants to wait until next week when you can order it today!

Oh, the Agony…

You know what the worst part about writing a book is? Yeah, I’m not sure either. But I’ll tell you that today may be at the top of the list. Let me take you back to earlier this week…

On Tuesday, I received the proof copy of my new thriller Absolute Authority, complete with the new cover and all the right formatting. I gave it a once over and was very happy with what I saw. The cover looked fantastic, the type face was what I had envisioned on the page, the page numbering was correct — everything seemed to be in order. I moved on from the over-arching stuff to the details and started reading a few pages. I had made a few revisions before I uploaded the file, so I wanted to double check to make sure they had carried over, which they had. So far, so good. That is, until I spotted some typos.

Do you know how many freakin’ times I’ve been over this book?! Typos? Still? Really? But there they were, taunting me. To me, typos (especially ones that have existed for this long) are like trolls. Just when you think it’s safe to cross the bridge and carry on your peaceful little journey to publishing stardom, BAM! The nasty little bugger sticks his ugly nose right in your face and then does his wretched little waddly in-your-face dance that makes you question your overall good character as you desperately try to maintain control over your sanity and not string the stinky, slump-shouldered creature up from the nearest tree just so you can get on with your life.

But, no, the troll wins. Every time. Especially for a writer who is borderline OCD. (Or is that CDO, so it’s in alphabetical order?) Either way, I can’t not fix typos. They control me. They are my obsession. They consume every ounce of my being. They are my demons. They are also common when I type too fast. And that bothers me. I need to learn to type faster better.

Anyway, that’s not why today is so agonizing. It’s so agonizing because I had to upload a new file this morning to replace the typo-laden one from earlier this week, which means I’m now waiting to hear back from the formatting folks so I can approve the final edition and get it up for sale. There is where the agony lies: in waiting. I hate to wait. It’s a waste of time. It’s not like I haven’t already spent years and years writing the darn thing…oh, wait, yes, I have.

So today is Waiting Day. I hate it. I will not be happy until the mail icon lights up with a note saying the formatting is all peachy and the book is ready for sale. Granted, it will most likely be later today. But it’s kinda like waiting for the microwave to finish. It’s the fastest cooking method known to man, yet we get impatient waiting those last 20 seconds.

So now I wait for an e-mail giving me the okay to launch my book. And now you’ve spent some of your time waiting with me. Perhaps we should both get back to other things before the popcorn timer dings.

Book Update…

For those curious few out there who have been following the publishing process for my debut novel, here’s a progress report. (It is during the school year, right?) The manuscript has been edited and formatted for print, and my good friend Melissa Williams is putting the final touches on the cover. I saw a preliminary the other day and it looks fantastic! Here is it below. It’s very strange to see my name in all bold letters on the front of a book, but I’m sure that will never get old. All there is left to do on the cover is add two author blurbs and we’ll be all set.

Once the cover is done, the next step for the print edition is to compile the manuscript and cover files and zap them to the publisher. I hope to have that done next week. In the meantime, I’m working on the e-book version, which will be available the same day as the paperback. If all goes as planned, you should be able to order them in time for Christmas. Yay!