About You, About Me, About Everyone Else

ImageWhen I land on an interesting blog site, I always look for the About link – and I click it. Rather than to read several blog posts to find out about the blogger, I hope to find some insight on their About page. If the blogger is friendly and appears approachable, I’m more likely to read some posts and follow.

Ruth Ann Nordin recently posted a link to an article entitled, Top 10 Self-Sabotaging Mistakes of Author-Bloggers. I was sure I would find ten more things I wasn’t doing right, but I was pleasantly surprised. Other than no twitter handle, because I don’t tweet, my biggest mistake was my About page. I had nothing on it other than one lousy sentence. I should have known better from my own blog-hopping habits.

In addition to the tips and information the article put forth, I did a little research on how to make the best of your About page. As with many blogging topics, the viewpoints can be subjective, and the pointers for a commercial business vary quite a bit from what I’m putting forth here. My comments are in parenthesis:

Per Google Analytics, your About page is one of your most highly-trafficked pages.

People can’t resist clicking the About page. They want to know who you are and what you are about.

It’s ok to have fun on your page.

Keep your first paragraph short. One to two lines – lines, not sentences.

Tell a good story. A good story hooks them every time.

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Hubby used to pass this picture around and say it was his wife!

Use a good photo of yourself.  (I’m on the fence about this one. I don’t need to see what someone looks like to want to follow their blog or read their books. There are a couple of not-so-good photos of me floating around out there, but I’ll wait until I really need author headshots to post a good photo to my page. … A little positive thinking there!)

Post contact information.  If you’re not including a way for people to contact you outside of the comments section, you may be missing opportunities. (In an effort to keep spam down, I’ve avoided putting my email address out there. I’ve probably kept questions and fan mail down, too.)

Your About page can bring more readers AND more sales.  (I’ll take both, please.)

Write in your own voice. Don’t try to sound like a press release.

Be consistent with your voice. Being upbeat and witty on your blog will have been for naught when someone clicks on your About page and finds it crumbly-dry and boring.

Tell why you are blogging. Do you specialize in a particular subject, or do you cover a variety of topics? Who are you hoping to reach? Your blog will be defined here as one of primarily offering information, help, or a more personal blogging experience.

Show your books. Include a synopsis for each, and have a link for purchase.  Viewpoints vary for this suggestion. Some say your books and links should be visible with every post, others say they should be on your About page, while even others suggest a separate page for your books. (My books are on my home page, and they are now on my About page. I don’t want them showing up in every post; my header makes it pretty clear I have books.) You should, of course, choose what feels right for your blog.

Don’t post your resume. Keep your bio short utilizing one focused paragraph. It is ok, however, to additionally talk about achievements and publications.

Make sure your About link has prominence on your main page.  Preferably at the top of your Imageblog. It’s one of the first places many visitors to a blog go, so make it easy to find.

Backlink. If you have posts you’re particularly proud of because they’ve received tons of comments, or they are just plain wonderful, list them on your About page. (This is a good idea, especially for your Freshly Pressed posts.)

When someone leaves, they should have an idea as to who you are as a person.

I now have a squeaky new About page. I tried to follow some of the pointers – two lines to start, tell a story, why I’m blogging, about my family, contact email, and I shared enough about my books to, hopefully, entice a few new readers.

Let me know if there was anything helpful to you here. Will you be making changes to your About page? Or will you be making your first About page? Was I the only person at WordPress who didn’t utilize the About page?

The Power of Positive Thinking

ImageThere are a multitude of items you can order online nowadays, but I remember something I sent for via our good old postal system before the convenience of the internet. Something that was guaranteed to change my life. I would have love, wealth, and happiness – all of my dreams come true.

I’m an upbeat person. I always look for the good side of everyone and every situation. It can get annoying to others at times. Even our son has told me to back off when he didn’t want to feel better about what was making him blue. I get that. Sometimes, you just have to feel it.

I must have been at a low point about something those many years ago. I really don’t remember; I don’t hang on to negativity very well. But when I saw the ad in the magazine, I simply had to have this miracle, whatever it was. I don’t remember the cost, but I wanted all of the promises. I waited the appropriate six to eight weeks for arrival. On the day it came, I literally tore the box apart to get the magic out.

I sat stunned for a moment.

Inside was a little soapstone dish with a lid. I could hold it in the palm of my hand and close my fingers around it. I removed the lid, and inside was a polished stone. That’s all. I looked in the box to see if Imagethere were instructions. Sure enough, there were. Three times every day, I was to remove the stone, hold it in my hand, and repeat the enclosed mantra. I don’t remember the words, but they were nothing more than a series of positive affirmations for believing in yourself. I remember flopping back on the sofa and laughing at my folly.

But I got a lot of mileage out of that little dish and stone. I used it several years later when I conducted training classes. I shared the story, and I passed the dish and stone around as I gave a quick talk on being positive and believing in yourself whether personally or in your job.

That’s a bit of long story to get to my main topic today, but I appreciate positivity. I appreciate someone who encourages you, instead of someone who drags you down, or makes you feel inadequate, or tells you that you can’t do something.

On Monday, writer Morgan Le Fables posted a link to an almost 13-minute video from Anne Rice, author of Interview with the Vampire. I’ve never heard her speak before. She is charming, sincere, passionate, and very giving with her encouragement and advice.

I took notes.

Here is the link so you can view the video when you have time – Anne Gives Writing Advice, September 18, 2012.  Here are my quick notes:

  • Write every day.
  • Keep what you write. Even if you decide not to use what you write, put it away – keep it.
  • There are no rules in our profession.
  • All you need is a computer, typewriter, or paper and pencil, and you can turn out a War and Peace or an Old Man and the Sea.
  • Write anywhere. In a café, at the kitchen table, in a garage office.
  • People say you can’t break in. That’s not true. Every year people on the outside break in.
  • It’s no harder to get published today than it ever was. New authors come out of nowhere every year.
  • Interview with the Vampire was rejected five times. Don’t give up. Anne was at a writer’s conference when she asked someone to read her manuscript. The woman did, and Anne was off and running.
  • Publishing is crying for new voices, new visions, new stories, new characters.
  • Her friend, author Floyd Salas, said to her, “Go where the pain is. Write about what hurts.”
  • Anne expands to, “Go where the pleasure is.”
  • Write what is exciting to you. Interesting to you. Be excited to want to find out what happens next.
  • Every one of her books has had bad reviews – worst book ever. You can’t win them all, so be sure to turn out what you like.
  • Don’t revise your book because of rejection from an editor. Any editor who rejects your book doesn’t get it.
  • When they love your book and ask for changes, now you can listen.Image
  • Lots of rejections? Do not give up! Self publish! It’s never been easier.
  • There are stories every few weeks of self-published authors being discovered by big publishing houses.
  • You need stubbornness. You need courage. You need faith in yourself.
  • Don’t be cynical. When a New York editor opens your manuscript, they want it to be good.
  • Believe in yourself! Be brave!
  • Nobody can tell you that you can’t do that! Realize your dreams.

Truly, all of this is so much better in Anne’s passionate voice. And there is more than what is in my notes. She is motivating and will give you a lift.

As I run down this crooked road of writing and self-publishing, Anne Rice gave me a bit more confidence that my stubbornness, bravery, and writing because the stories excite and delight me, is the crooked road in the right direction.

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Leave Them Kids Alone

ImagePink Floyd. I’ve always been a Pink Floyd fan. Hubby is a mega-fan, and it’s not unusual to hear Floyd blaring from the den. I’ve had a Pink Floyd lyric running through my head this past week: “Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!” Leave them kids alone. The words shift; the tune remains, “Hey! Maddie! Leave them covers alone!” I’m not making this up. It’s in my head, and it’s annoying.

This evening, I approved the final artwork for the rework of my first cover. I’ve read plenty of articles about covers, and thought I had everything under control. A little more research tonight turned up some interesting tidbits, as there is a plethora of articles related to the mistakes of indie authors.  Ha! Here we go again. I compared my covers to the tips. All of these helpful hints appeared in more than one article:

1. Do not use a family member or relative to do your artwork.  – FAIL

2. Sexy covers are hot right now.  – FAIL

3. Do not put your name in small type in the lower right or left corner.  – FAIL

4. Do not clutter your cover. Design around one element.  – FAIL

5. Quit messing with your cover. Pick a design and stick with it.  – FAIL

6. Changing the cover art can attract new buyers.  – PASS  – Yeah! I passed one! Oh, wait. Basically the change was from one of a boring cover to one of the steamy sex god and goddess covers. – FAIL

I’m happy with my covers. They certainly portray the pink, fluffy, fun, not-too-serious, theme of the books. I think I’ll keep them.

After watching the Emmys …

ImageI was inspired to have an awards ceremony. Some very special bloggers have been kind enough to nominate me for awards. I’ve always been a little shy about this award thing, as I don’t feel I’ve done anything here to warrant any type of award, but I realize we nominate the bloggers we enjoy, and we help bring attention to other blogs as well. I’ve found some wonderful people by following the recommendations of those who have nominated others. So without further ado, let me catch up with awards today.

On June 18, Lightningpen nominated me for the Beautiful Blogger Award.

July 31 brought a Very Inspiring Blogger Award from The Living Notebook.

On August 3, T.W. Dittmer grouped his nominees together for the Very Inspiring Award and the One Lovely Blog Award. My name was on his list.

On August 7, Zen Scribbles nominated me for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.

August 12, I was nominated for the Family of Bloggers Award by Paula Acton.

August 18 brought One Lovely Blog Award from The Cheeky Diva.

A great big “thank you” to all of you who nominated me. If you aren’t presently following any of the above people, please check them out. You won’t be disappointed.

Most of these awards require you to tell seven things about yourself and then nominate other bloggers for the same award. There is no way you want to hear that many things about me, so I’ll just do one set of seven for the lot:

1. My highest bowling score was 245. I was chatting with a girlfriend about her wedding, and having to get up to bowl was a distraction. When someone pointed out to me that I had rolled seven strikes in a row, the spell was broken.

2. The movie Camelot reduces me to a crying, blubbering mess – every time.

2. I love playing Scrabble.

4. My first car was a used, orange Ford Maverick with a black stripe from front to back over the hood Imageand top. My first new car was a GREMLIN! I “designed” it myself with chocolate brown paint, white stripes down both sides, slightly wider wheels with awesome hubcabs, and an automatic on the floor. It was a fantastic car, it never embarrassed me, and I had it for over ten years.

5. I was Track Queen in high school. Not Prom Queen or Homecoming Queen – track queen.

6. The first year I played racquetball, I won our state’s tournament as a novice.

7. When going out to eat, the first thing I look for on the menu is a Reuben sandwich.

For the Family of Bloggers Award, you tell what attributes you bring to the family, using an anagram of the word FAMILY:

F – flexible (in my reactions to people and situations)
A- affable
M – merciful
I – imaginative
L – loyal
Y – youthful (in spirit)

On to the Nominations!!

ImageBeautiful Blogger Award – I chose these people because their blogs are visually appealing:
Canadian Hiking Photography
Richert Images
Mark Armstrong Illustration
Charlie’s Photo Blog
The Way I See

ImageVery Inspiring Blogger Award -Inspiration comes in many forms. I nominate this fine mix of blogs for this award:
Nicolette Reed
Human Nature and Superpowers
Daniel Koeker
The Word by Mike Ballenger
Gas Station Gastronomy

ImageOne Lovely Blog – There are lovely people, things, and sentiments at all of these blogs:
Simplicity Lane
In a Grand Fashion
The Bookstore Lady
Retired Ruth
Sumthissumthat (especially his wife’s artwork)

ImageSisterhood of the World Bloggers – Ladies you will enjoy:
Rendevous with Renee
Keri Peardon
Michelle Proulx Official
That Girl Who Reads Books
The Jenny Mac Book Blog

ImageFamily of Bloggers – These people are like family to me and are listed in the order that I met them:
Zen Scribbles
Tessa Sheppard
T.W. Dittmer
Robin Coyle
Cheeky Diva

Phew! Thank you all so much!

12 Tips – How to Get More Traffic to Your Blog

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I get a kick out of everyone who stresses over their stats and checks them many times throughout the day – if not the hour. I often forget to check my stats. Better stats still scare me. I liken it to being on a stage while an audience watches and listens. Will they get up and walk out? Will they laugh at the humor moments? Will they enjoy themselves? Will they throw tomatoes?Image

Even on days when my post might be a stinker, I’m grateful for the people who come by and push the Like button. A comment is icing on the cake, and because I know how both make me feel, I try to be supportive of the blogs I follow and comment when I can without saying something too stupid (and oh, yeah, I have done that). I even click many of the links on blog posts. I’ve found some interesting people and things on the other side of those clicks.

I noticed a few minutes ago that the next comment to my blog will be the 600th comment. Here are a few more of my stats:

  • My total views doubled from July to August.
  • The highest number of views I’ve had on any one day was 74. That’s fine with me (see paragraph one again).
  • I have 153 followers. My husband was surprised I had that many. Me, too.
  • The dog Muttley was #2 on my list of most hits through search engines, with “horse poo” being in the top ten.
  • I’ve never been, and I never want to be Freshly Pressed. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say never, but not for a long time, that’s for sure.

So, why have I had the recent urge to search for ways to get better stats?

Because having people visit my blog, if only for a moment or two, puts my name and Susan Hunter’s Imagename out there. And someone who likes pink or mysteries might stay around a little longer to see what we’re about.

By the time I was done wading through articles and blogs, I actually had a lot of information about getting more blog visitors. Some of it was technical and pertained more to a business than a personal blog. A lot of it was what most people already know – visit other blogs, leave comments and likes, respond to comments on your own blog, add graphics, shorter is better than longer … but the following are some additional suggestions. I’m not attributing them to any one person or article, because they are fairly generic, and I encountered them in multiple places. Some of the information came from the gurus right here at WordPress.

#1 – Your blog should express what you’re most passionate about. I definitely see this on many blogs, but if someone had said this to me before I started blogging, I probably wouldn’t have even tried. I’m supposed to be, and am mostly, chronicling my writing journey, which is not yet a passion as much as it is a wonderment.

#2 – Are you blogging to help people, be a resource, and make a difference? Or to make you famous? Well, let’s be honest.  I’m not doing much here to help people. I’m definitely not a resource. And nothing I write will make a difference in the world. I’m sort of leaning to the famous side – you know, the book thing. Everyone says if that’s the case, then you should quit now. So, if you don’t see me after today, I took their advice and packed it in.

#3 – Post only one post per week.

#4 – Post Often.  Obviously, there was a mix of advice as to how often to post. Some say multiple times per day, others say writing and posting too often leads to weak writing, but the majority thought posting often would lead to the best results – every day or every other day would keep the search engines happy, too.

#5 – Analyze your blog’s competition.  What?! We are in competition with each other? I had no idea, and I refuse to play along.

#5 – Don’t blog about your pet, your boyfriend, husband, or your kids. I’m already turning people away. I probably had 1,000 followers and they are dropping like flies. My husband and our dead dogs come up often. My kid is not yet off the hook, and I don’t agree with this. There are loads of blogs with families at the heart of them, and frankly, I like them.

#6 – People want you to talk about them, not you. -and- Write in the second person.  I generally want to visit my favorite blogs to see what each person is up to. I like it when they talk about what they’re doing or accomplishing. And what’s with writing in the second person? You. Your. Yours. I always thought second person was best used for e-mail, presentations, and professional writing. I can see this on a more information driven blog than a personal blog.

#7 – Tell stories. -and- Write about a never-ending parade of different topics so you don’t bore your readers.  I’ve got that covered – sort of. Book stuff, stories, bits of information. There are different topics simply because I have no idea where I’m going here.

#8 – Guest post on other blogs. Crikey, this is good advice, and for most of you, it would work, but I have enough trouble finding something to say here without getting on someone else’s stage, too.

#9 – Use numbers in your title to indicate lists, and the words “how to.” These are highly searched key Imagewords, and we are a list-making society, as well as a people who want to know how to do things. Got that covered today!

#10 – Conduct Keyword Research While Writing Your Posts.  I think there is a lot to be said for keyword search. I simply haven’t taken the time to put enough thought to it yet. But using keywords in your title and in your post will definitely bring more hits, and hopefully, more readers to your blog. There are entire sites devoted to keywords. Working a high-ranking keyword or two into every post can be extremely beneficial. I came across an article from a blogger who had passed the million hit mark. He swears by keyword search – even writing entire articles about random topics just so he could include high-value keywords.

#11 – Turn your articles and blog posts into PDFs, then submit your PDFs to document sharing sites like Scribd.  “Scribd is the world’s largest online library, making it easy to share and discover entertaining, informative and original written content across the web and mobile devices.” This is perfect for bloggers who share great information, but there are also books, recipes, and other interesting writing here. Hold your cursor over the word “explore” at the top to see the numerous categories. And there are some awesome Geek types on the About page.

#12 – Start using Pinterest to post pictures from your blog.  I did this as soon as I found the tip. It takes a little time, but you’ll want to go to the actual blog post to grab your image to pin. That way, each picture will link back to the post where it was used. Ideally, you should label your picture with a bit of information about the blog post. I may do that later. I knew I was putting goofy pictures out there last night. There are usually lovely pictures flowing across the Pinterest landscape, and I dropped goofiness on it. I didn’t care; I did it anyway. My Pinterest page. My whopping two followers haven’t ditched me yet.Image

This was a long one today, but I hope it was helpful.

As I started this post a couple of days ago, my 600th comment came and went. It was from Jennings Wright who is amazing and has written four books – in different genres! Please check out her blog – and consider buying one of her books.

Peddling Wares – An Idea

ImageOn my recent trip home from the grocery store, I drove past our in-progress county fair. The rides and food booths were situated along the chain link fence running along the road. As I tried to quickly take in the sights, a light bulb went off over my head.

We haven’t been to the fair since our son was young, but I enjoy the fair. I love the animals – all of them – even the smelly ones. Ahh! I almost forgot! We got our beloved dog, Joe, at the fair! Well, sort of. The people from the dog pound were there with dogs for adoption. All three of us decided that our shepherd at home needed a brother, so we picked out a black and tan coon hound with red ticking on his chest. Our son was excited and named him Ticker. When we went to the pound to get him the next day, there was a mix-up, and Ticker wasn’t there, he was back at the fair. But his brother was at the pound. He looked like Ticker, he seemed to like us, so we went with him. I named him Joe.

Back to the subject of the fair. The rides are ok, but we really like fair food, and one of my favorite thingsImage to do is walk through the commercial buildings where everyone peddles their wares. All of the home improvement gurus are there, the hot tub people, local businesses, craft people … there’s a lot going on. And we go through collecting cards, pens, advertising pieces, etc.  Some of it is useful; some of it is junk.

The light bulb over my head was a flash of an idea. A flash of a booth at the fair with posters of each of my book covers on the walls, print on demand copies of my books for sale on the table, bookmarks, and lots and lots of cards with my website for eReaders. I love this idea!

Of course, I had to tell hubby as soon as he came home from work. He didn’t share my enthusiasm. With a sideways glance and a frown he said, “It sounds like work.” A trade show. It sounded like working a trade show to him. Well, duh.

ImageI assured him it would be fun; it was the fair! And we would have fun together schmoozing with the locals. And the fair is full of old people during the day, and he LOVES old people (I’m six years older than he is), and old people love him, and old people would like my books.

I think I saw his shoulders slump.

“Next year, honey. Not this year. Next year. We’ll have fun,” I said as I walked out of the den. I think I heard a choice word under his breath. I’ll post pictures of him having fun in my booth next year when we go to the fair.

I’m sure this isn’t an original idea. I’d like to know if any of you have done this or something equivalent, and how did it go for you? I think it’s a good chance to get in front of a lot of people who read – both young and old. Someone tagged one of my books at Amazon as young adult. I never really thought about it, but the books are certainly not objectionable, and a young adult reader might enjoy them.

Also, about print on demand. When you want one copy of your book, or just a few, or quite a few for the fair, who do you use? I may want to print a few copies for Christmas gifts this year, but am uncertain where to turn. Recommendations are appreciated.

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Baby Joe – home from the fair.

The Bag Sucker 100

National Talk About Your Book Day was a success, so I’m moving on to something new. A product endorsement!

After a trip to the grocery store today, and after the groceries were put away, I was left with all of the meat on the counter. It needed to be repackaged for the freezer. It used to be a daunting task, especially when wrapping multiple times in an effort to keep freezer burn at bay.

ImageI longed for a bag-sucker. A vacuum sealer for food. I fondly referred to the popular, expensive machine as the Bag Sucker 9000. I was jealous when my sister got one. She rubbed it in my nose how fantastic it was. I pleaded with my family for a Bag Sucker 9000 multiple years for Christmas, but to no avail.

Imagine my delight when I was cruising the Walmart aisles one day and found the Reynolds Handi-Vac. A Bag Sucker 5000! How cool was this! Forget the shape. Forget that it needed a dozen batteries to Imageoperate. Well, five. But it was sooo cool! Just put the food in the bag, place the bag sucker over the hole, cross your eyes and hold your mouth just right, and it would take all the air out of the bag. Sometimes holding it up against the kitchen cabinet helped to seal it, too. The food was freezer-burn free, and I think I started with the Bag Sucker 5000 for under $20 – or maybe $30. I was pretty happy. I even rubbed my sister’s nose in it as to how much cheaper I could seal meat than she could.

For a while.

The Reynolds people stopped servicing their product. The bags were no longer available unless you bought them from HSN (at that time), and they only came in one size. What?! I wasn’t jumping through hoops just to get the bags, and the batteries were almost dead anyway, so I chucked it into the kitchen junk drawer. Sigh. Thanks a lot, Reynolds.

At least a year later, I’m cruising the Walmart aisles again, and I spot the Ziploc Vacuum Pump. Oh, this is swell. Hand operated, and I have to pump it? The Bag Sucker 100. I got started for under $10.00.

ImageThis cheap plastic gizmo is fantastic! I give it 5-stars, and it works even when there are no batteries or electricity in the house. It’s easy, it’s fast, the bags stay sealed, and I don’t have to cross my legs or stand on my head to get it to work. There are never any freezer burns. Seriously, if you don’t have a Bag Sucker 100, you must run out and get one.

My sister had surgery last Christmas Eve. My husband and I ran down to the hospital again on Christmas morning to see her. I gave my gift to her there at the hospital. It was a cruel thing to do because it made her laugh, which, in turn, made her hurt. It was a Bag Sucker 100. I found out later she gave her expensive Bag Sucker 9000 to her daughter, and she only uses the cheap plastic Ziploc sealer now,

Take a look at lovely Melanie here as she demonstrates the ease of use of the Bag Sucker 100. She even freezes meat for seven weeks (or months, I don’t remember), and then she shows you the end result. Pretty impressive, and she gives the product an A.

You’re welcome.