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Armchair BEA: Tips for writers and book bloggers

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Armchair BEA 2012

Community, organization, and technology help writers and bloggers

Writers and bloggers are always looking for tips and ideas to make their lives easier. This week’s series of posts has been inspired by the 2012 ARMCHAIR BEA virtiual convention and is a great example of one of one of the tips I’m sharing below.

Get involved

Blogging, like any other writing form, is solitary. You define your topic, your strategy, your content, but there is a large community online that you can tap for inspiration and motivation. While it’s good to be focused and to stay on topic it doesn’t hurt to go outside your normal niche and look for ways to tweak ideas and make them fit your world. That helps you stay fresh and gives your readers a surprise.

"Libraries raised me."

  1. Check the news – Look at what’s going on in the real world and see if you can tweak a timely topic or trend to fit your readership. Obviously I’ll be writing about well-known writers, like Ray Bradbury, when they die and offer my own take on their lives and work. Celebrities, movie-tie ins, and headlines also offer opportunities that provide quick new content and, for bloggers, a potential boost in search rankings.
  2. Participate in online events – Find current online events that you can participate in. The ARMCHAIR BEA proved to be a great find for me. While it’s all about books, it is clearly about writers and writing, too. So I’ve participated daily with posts and tweaked them to fit my audience. Hopefully I’ve gained a few new readers, too. I get new content for my readers, a fresh perspective, and an opportunity to gain more exposure. Don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone.
  3. Find a meme, take a challenge, participate in a read-a-thon– Memes and challenges are fun and interesting but you don’t want to overdo it. Pick one or two and make sure you can tweak them to your readership so that you’re imparting information, inspiration, or something of value for your readers and go for it. My current favorite right now is Top Ten Tuesday. It’s a perfect fit because I’m expanding the book and reader angle here. Since future topics are already calendared, I can plan and write posts at a more leisurely pace and schedule them so that I have at least one post in the upcoming week. The cool thing about memes is that they have a double whammy. Not only do you get content but when you post the link on the host’s site you increase exposure and find new readers. The same goes for challenges. I’ve joined the The Classics Club. I also participate in the Dewey Read-a-thons and post about my experiences–anything to encourage reading.

Get organized

wall decal for writers

A little bit of organization can go a long way. This doesn’t mean you have to drill down and write every single task but it does help to have some organization. Look for ways to keep it fun, entertaining, and fruitful.

  1. Create an editorial calendar – Take a tip from magazine editors and spend a day or a few hours thinking about your content in relation to the seasonal calendar. Map out the four seasons, then brainstorm ideas. Book bloggers know that more books are released in advance of the holidays than at any other time. Pick a few titles to review that will fit easily into the season whether they’re geared for a specific holiday or the gift realm. Spring brings another avalanche of books. Summer is the season for light reading. Fall turns to back to school and a more studious mindset. You don’t have to do every idea. How much is up to you.
  2. Utilize regular features – This is a fun one for me and it offers me a chance to schedule regular postings that may not demand a lot of intense work. One feature I’m bringing back is my Friday Prompts. These are posts that contain one visual prompt and are meant to stoke a writer’s creativity and provide an opportunity to do a little freewriting as the weekend comes into full swing. I enjoy putting these together and can easily pull several months worth of prompts together in a day. Once again this keeps my blog active on a weekly basis and it also helps by providing breadcrumbs for those little Google bots crawling around my blog. More book reviews are planned and they’ll contain a writer’s perspective component.
  3. Understand your work habits – Good intentions don’t produce anything without action. If you’re a hobby blogger or are limited in your time to write, own it. Don’t set yourself up for failure. If you know you can’t write five reviews a week or commit to writing a chapter a day, don’t set that goal. Be realistic. Make goals that are doable and you’ll find that you’ll produce more. Set a schedule that is realistic and then follow through. Remember, “every inch is a cinch”

Get your geek on

Oh, for the good old days

Nobody is more techno-phobic than me. My love/hate relationship often leans more to the hate, especially when it comes to implementation, but I oh so love what it does to make my life easier. You don’t have to know how to do what you want to do. You do need to find someone who has done it or knows how and then ask for help, direction, tips, etc. They don’t have to be a tech expert; they just have to know more than you. When it comes to social media and technology, I admit I don’t do it all; but I do, periodically, take a look around, find a few things, and see how they fit. Pick what works best for you. You might be surprised.

  1. Set up a Facebook Fan Page – This has been my favorite. I used the fan page to gain and keep interested readers during a lengthy period when the blog was under renovation and moving from Typepad to WordPress. My FB strategy is to use it to share links and information I come across but probably won’t use for posts. That way the content is fresh and different. Along the way I post links to my blog content. I do not feed my blog into the fan page. The result is I not only have a way to communicate with readers and visitors but I also have a type of shared bookmarking going on.
  2. Try Pinterest – I don’t use Pinterest like most folks. It’s a great visual bookmarker for me and a perfect place for backlinks. I have albums that contain things from the web but also pin my own work. So if I write something about gardening, I pin it to my garden album. (You’ll find my dogs there.) It’s definitely helped me find new readers. But I really like the visual bookmark aspect. One album is dedicated to ideas for potential blog posts. Of course, that’s not the name of the album but it is the function.
  3. Take advantage of Squidoo – I love Squidoo. Squidoo has helped me so much, especially in the area of refining my knowledge on using online publishing platforms. This new knowledge has helped with my blog. Squidoo is, as is Pinterest, a great place for backlinks as well as a way to gain exposure among writers and readers who might never discover my blog. My strategy is to write complimentary pieces that I cross link. Now, I don’t do it for every post but every Squidoo page links to my blog and my blog’s FB page. Never duplicate content on Squidoo or anywhere else; but even a Squidoo page that provides links to your reviews by category, topic, author, or whatever will gain you a wider audience. It’s worth the time. (It’s also a terrific place for me to write about anything off-topic here.) Yes, there is a learning curve but the Squidoo community is so helpful. It’s amazing what you learn and who you meet.

I’ve told you some of the things that have worked for me and other writers, now tell me yours. Share the one thing you do that makes what you do, whatever the type of writing, fun, easy, or more productive.

Use the comment section below to share your thoughts and experiences. (Links below.)
Ready to read the classics? Join The Classics Club. My 5 year 50+ booklist is here: The Classics Club project.

  • IMAGE & AFFILIATE CREDITS: BEA Armchair design by Sarah of Puss Reboots; all wall decal poster images are Amazon affiliate links and sourced via Amazon

Down the Writer’s Path Facebook Fan Page; My Squidoo page; My Pinterest page
Top Ten Tuesday; Dewey’s Read-a-thon; ArmchairBEA



Enjoy these posts

Series NavigationArmchair BEA: Beyond the blog and why some writers blogArmchairBEA: 2012 wrap-up
  • Man of la Book

    Great tips. I haven’t tried Squidoo yet.

  • Amanda @ Letters Inside Out

    Great tips! I’ve always wondered about Squidoo. I should look into it! :)

  • Amanda @ Letters Inside Out

    Great tips! I’ve always wondered about Squidoo. I should look into it! :)

  • Kathy Reel

    Vikk, what an informative blog on tips for writers and book bloggers!  I’m printing it out to keep handy.  You are indeed a writer, and I wish you much success with it.  I will, of course, have to follow you and list you as a favorite blog.  Thanks for taking the time to help those of us who need it so much!

  • Jillian

    Great tips for folks who are looking to be “successful” as bloggers. :) I just want to introspect and have a good time, with myself and my own learning being the #1 focus. So I probably won’t be following any of your tips, lol. I’ll just haphazard my way along as I always have. :) Cheers, Vikk!

  • Vikk Simmons

    Thanks, Kathy, I’m glad you found the tips so useful and thrilled that you liked it enough to print it out. Thank you for following me, too, and listing me as a favorite. I truly appreciate it. 

  • Vikk Simmons

    I LOVE Squidoo, let me count the ways. I’m going to have to do a 50 Ways  post on Squidoo one of these days. Say hello when you do get around to it. My link to my Squidoo page is at the end of the post above. 

  • Vikk Simmons

    Thanks! If you get there, say hello. I’m not there everyday but I keep an eye on it and suddenly have a surge of Squidoo addiction fall upon me. 

  • Vikk Simmons

    Thanks, Jillian. As you know, that’s the beauty of blogging. You can do as much as you want or as little. You are in charge. To be a successful blogger is to create and do what makes YOU happy. You will find like-minded readers and/or readers who appreciate what you do and are content to follow and marvel as I have these last couple of years. Nothing is mandated. :) 

  • Book Nympho

    This is one of the best advice posts I’ve come across so far.  I’m definitely bookmarking it for future reference! And I’m on Squidoo too, isn’t it great? :)

  • Vikk Simmons

    It is great and thank you for the kind words. I’m so glad you like it enough to bookmark. That is terrific. Glad it’s of help. Thanks for stopping by. 

  • Megan

    A good meme that gives you an opportunity to write real content and can actually spawn discussions is pricelss.  I try to keep my memes to a minimum, but I love to participate in Top Ten Tuesday when I can.  It’s nice to have a meme post and visit meme posts where you can give and receive comments that are more substantial than “Great haul!” or “That looks good!” 

    Your understanding your work habits tip is another great one.  It took me a long time to come to terms with what I wished and hoped my blog could be and what I’m actually capable of producing without stressing myself to the max.  I still have wishes and hopes, but I’ve been able to tap into my blogging realist side much more often, and it’s been quite helpful, actually!

    Excellent advice across the board! :)

  • Laura

    You’ve got some solid suggestions! I really like the editorial calendar idea. While I kind of do this already, it’s more fluid & I might be better served planning it out. Thanks for the great tips! Tattooed Books

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard of Squidoo. I will have to check it out!

  • Vikk Simmons

    You’re welcome. I appreciate your stopping by and commenting. I think editorial calendars are helpful, especially when you’re stuck for content or looking for ways to mix things up a bit. It’s good to some posts that you know ahead of time that you’ll be using and can take time to work them up. Some of those posts can be great backups in the event you have sudden life issues pop up. Schedule them and the blog goes on. 

  • Melissa

    I like your idea of setting up a FB Fan Page when renovating a blog. I’m considering a name change for mine, and this might be a solution for some of the questions I’ve raised in the Armchair BEA conversations this week. 

    Great post … nice to meet you during Armchair BEA! 

  • Gwen

    Something about the name, Squidoo, has always just turned me off. I know, it’s totally unfair. It isn’t the Squid thing, I love Squid….maybe deep down, it is a problem with the “doo”. :)

  • Vikk Simmons

    Great. I think you’ll find it a great addition. 

  • Vikk Simmons

    Thanks and nice to meet you, too. David Risley at just changed the name on his blog and he has a big following. He’s done a couple of posts about his decision and how he’s implementing the transition. 

  • Vikk Simmons

    Yeah, that “doo” can be real annoying. I’ve grown used to the name but it is a bit strange.