Sunday, March 21, 2010

Solutions In Action: The Zen of Blogging

We are very excited about our guest blogger today. Talk about Solutions in Action! Lee Wind has created two cyber-niches for himself, both of which are great examples of karmic marketing and helping others. We're excited to have him stop by today and talk about his newest venture, a blog on. . .blogging-- The Zen of Blogging, to be exact.

Seriously, with more and more authors being told to blog, and more and more blogs popping up like toadstools after a rain, some blogging advice is sorely needed. A touch of Zen? Even better. Whether you are struggling with trying to decide whether or not to start your own blog, or not sure what to do with the one you've got, we think you'll find some helpful information here!

Can you give us a sneak preview of some of the things you’ll be talking about on your new Zen of Blogging blog?

How to do specific things with your blog, tips, exercises, inspirations, great things other people are doing with blogging and social media that I want to share - it will be a mix of fabulous stuff. And all of it will have the goal of empowering every blogger out there to realize that they don't have to stress out about their blog. You can blog. And it can be fun. Manageable. And yes, even "Zen."

You have another hugely successful blog, "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?" that was voted Best GLBT Book Review Blog, BBAW 2009. How long did it take you to develop that blog into its present award winning state? What surprises or pitfalls did you run into?

When I started "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?" I had very little traffic. I think that first week I had 5 posts and maybe 20 visitors. But I worked at it steadily, and it built momentum and a following. I guess the "secret" was that I treated it like a professional. I showed up every day, was consistent, and offered unique content in an area where no one else was offering what I was. There was no other safe space online to find out what teen books are out there with GLBTQ Teen characters and themes. Now there is - my blog - and beyond that, I've been able to do so much more covering not just GLBTQ teen literature, but also culture and politics - and it's all been around the theme of empowering my readers, gay and straight.

So what made you decide to launch another blog, one on blogging?

I didn't set out to do a second blog. In fact, I resisted it for quite a while. Here's what happened: After more than 2 years of blogging 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year at my main blog (and having some nice success with it in terms of awards and traffic, with over a quarter of a million page loads and more than 160,000 unique visitors there) I felt that I had learned a lot about blogging. There's so much information and noise out there about social media that I think it's easy to get lost and overwhelmed. So last year I set out to write a simple guide to blogging - one that didn't focus on the technical stuff or on the noise, but rather on the 7 basic principles that can make any blog more focused and successful. I called the resulting e-book "The Zen Of Blogging."

I was so excited to put it out there and actually be selling something I wrote. And I think it's streamlined and simple and really useful. I got some wonderful early reviews, and built the website myself. I launched it on my birthday of this year, January 11, 2010.

My husband (who is one smart cookie) kept asking me, "but Lee, how are you going to promote it?" and I assured him that I had a plan.

This was my plan: I had all these listserves I was on. And all those friends on facebook. And my email lists. And twitter followers. I would tell the world! And I did. I did all of it. In one day. And there was some traffic. And then, the next day, I realized that I couldn't blog about it again on my main blog. I couldn't bother people with a second email. I couldn't talk about my book any more on Facebook, or twitter, or anywhere else without looking completely self- absorbed and trying to hard-sell everyone I knew. How many tweets from another author about THEIR book would I want to endure?

With social media, you want to be part of a conversation, not dominate it. Just like in real life - I don't want to hang out with someone who I feel is only trying to sell me something. I didn't want to turn people away.

And that's when I realized: I didn't have a plan at all! And my e- book sat there. All nice and pretty and ready for the party, and practically no one knew it was there. Without generating new content on an ongoing basis like a blog, the fancy website that I'd worked so hard to create just sat there. A good day was 2 visitors. (Compared with a good day at my main blog, where I top 600 visitors!)

So I came up with the idea of doing a 1 minute video blog series of tips for bloggers. And I arranged with some social media experts who have their own blogs on blogging and marketing books and social media to premiere the videos there. And I launched the first one over at "Market My Words," Shelli Johannes' awesome blog on book marketing. But once the day of the video premiere passed, traffic on my website
tanked again. And Shelli is really prolific - the video post was quickly eclipsed by newer material. So what would be the permanent on- line home for that video and all the ones to follow?

What I realized was that doing a new blog on blogging would accomplish so many things for me:

1. It would give me an on-line home to talk about blogging, and to share how-to-tips, information, and inspiration (and my video blogs!) While I learned much of this from my main blog, visitors to that site aren't there to discuss blogging, they're there for the content: GLBTQ Teen Literature, Culture and Politics. The Zen Of Blogging Blog lets me focus on blogging for an audience there for just that.

2. I've spent a lot of time and energy with my main blog gaining credibility and expertise in the world of GLBTQ Teen Literature. In addition to being a project aimed at empowering Teens, it has positioned me as someone with a platform. When one of my books gets published with a traditional publisher, I have an audience already interested in what I have to say.

A blog on blogging would similarly engage people interested in blogging and help build an audience for the e-book I already have for sale. Not to hard-sell anyone, but if someone likes what I've blogged, maybe they'll be interested in checking out what I've written in the e-book as well.

3. A blog on blogging, as it builds my credibility and expertise, would be synergistic with my ongoing blogging workshops and consulting work.

Those three reasons were compelling - and once I articulated them, it was an easy decision to start blogging.

What would you tell people who are wavering on whether or not to blog?

Go for it. Blogging doesn't have to be intimidating. I decided for my new blog that I didn't really have a ton of time to devote to it, and I didn't want it to stress me out. I mean, I already have a blog where I've committed to producing 5 posts a week! So for this new blog, I'm going to do one post a week. If I have time, I'll do the next week's post in advance, and pre-publish it (a great trick-of-the- trade to know!) 4 blog posts a month is something I know I can handle, and it won't make me crazy.

What do you find people’s three greatest fears are about blogging? How would you counter those fears?

I think these are the biggest fears:

1. If I start a blog, no one will read it.

2. I don't know enough to do a blog perfectly.

3. What will I write about?

I guess the best answer to those questions is a personalized one for each potential or current blogger. However, here's a big brush / big stroke answer:

1. If you start a blog and only talk about what you had for lunch, you're right, probably no one besides your mother and your spouse will find it interesting. (And then, only because they know and love you.) You need to blog about what you are passionate about. Then your audience grows to include everyone who shares your passion.

2. No one's perfect. I make mistakes all the time. You got to get over this fear and blog anyway. (In fact, this is the topic of my post for this week on The Zen Of Blogging Blog - look for it Thursday!)

3. What will you write about? Imagine the audiences for your books and the audiences for your blog as overlapping. If you've got something to say in your books, you've got something to say in your blog.

What made you decide to go with a vlog format rather than a written format? Or will your blog include both?

I like short (under 1 minute) videos, and I have a lot of fun doing them. Having said that, many of the post will be purely words on the screen, with an image or two. And I'm not sure about a vlog blog having limited traffic - it will be interesting to look at the vlog days and the more text-oriented days and compare the traffic and comments. I'll let you know.

In your One Minute to Blogging Greatness video, you mention platform as a way to build an audience. What are some of the ways you suggest fiction writers--particularly YA and MG fiction writers —go about creating a blogging niche or platform for themselves

I think authors need to create not just "a" blog but "YOUR" blog. Something that's individual and uniquely yours. Just like the books you write couldn't have been written in the same way by anyone else, your blog should be a unique expression of your voice. I can be a guide, with my blog, my e-book, and even my one-on-one consulting, and I can help a blogger find the answers. But even then I can't walk the path for you, any more than I could write your books for you. Ultimately, we each have to find our own path to the Zen of Blogging.

Wow, thank you so much, Lee, for this great perspective on blogging and how it fits into our professional and personal lives!

And now, the winner of last week's drawing (brought to you by Random Number Generator) is number 15--Carrie Harris! Carrie, email me and I'll get your bundle of books out to you. Thanks to everyone for chiming in. It was great to catch up with you all!


Lisa Yee said...

Great interview -- thanks Lee and Robin!

Mary Hershey said...

Lee, this is such a fabulous concept! Thanks so much for this grand interview- especially for your frankness and honestly. I loved your vlog and I will look forward to more of it. Wishing you much, much success!

Mary Hershey

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great interview. I'm thinking about starting a blog and the info was so helpful.

Laurie L Young said...

Lee—what a great interview. I have learned so much from your regular blog, and I am looking forward to all the goodies on this new one. Congratulations!

Jonathon Arntson said...

I like this place, thanks for featuring Lee. His newest blog has been so helpful for me and he's only two posts in. Lee's other blog, well, that place is a freakin sanctuary.

R.L. LaFevers said...

So happy to learn that everyone is enjoying what Lee had to say as much as we did!

N.H. Senzai said...

Lee is wonderfully insightful! He was very helpful to me and his guide really forced me to think about blogging before I stuck my big toe into blogging waters, and jumped in.

Carrie Harris said...

No. Way. Not only do I get a fabulous interview from Lee, who is as intelligent as he is charming (and I should know, because we did a Cybils committee together), but I also win books? Oh, happy day!

Thanks on both accounts!

Kathy Duval said...

I loved this interview - very interesting and helpful!

myletterstoemily said...

such an informative interview.

thank you!

David LaRochelle said...

Great interview. I'm anxious to see Lee's new blog, as I've enjoyed I'M HERE, I'M QUEER a great deal. No doubt about it, Lee's an expert blogger and I know I can learn a lot from him - I already have!

Nishant said...

Thanks so much for this grand interview- especially for your frankness and honestly. I loved your vlog and I will look forward to more of it. Wishing you much, much success!
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Paul C said...

This post/interview provides helpful advice about how to start a blog and keep going. An interesting dynamic is to diversify the blog into other media like a vlog. Thanks.