Marji Laine

I Love a Good Mystery!


Content Matters – Three Ways to Hone Your Blog

Dear diaryWhen I started blogging, I got the idea that my blog consisted of an online journal. Whatever stimulated my imagination went onto the web. Yikes! And that’s how I feel when I look back at some of my posts from last year at this time.

Meanwhile, all of the social media articles I read clamored that I should have a focus to my blog. A platform. It took awhile for me to get the point. My blog needs to be an extension on my writing in such a way that the people who read my blog might also be interested in my books.

Not so hard for non-fiction writers since their main topics would obviously make up the perfect environment for their blogs. Anyone interested in the articles they write would easily be interested in their books. But I write fiction.

Being a novelist makes the exercise tricky. Some folks have a settled focus, like Ronie Kendig and her Discarded Heroes series about military suspense. With military being the main setting of her novels, it makes a great base for her blog. (No pun intended!)

Keli Gwyn‘s blog is another good example. Her romance novels exist in the Victorian age so her blog also details articles about romance and about the historical era she loves.

It’s quite a challenge to compile a platform. But there are some steps you can take to discover your own unique place on the World Wide Web.

1. Connect with your books.

Now I’m currently unpublished, but I still have two books completed. A third book planned and a supporting short story that goes along with the others. I may not have anything to sell right now, but blogging before publishing builds a base of folks who might be interested in my fiction when my books do hit print.
The more people who enjoy your online writing, the more chances for your books to sell.
So how can you hook your books to your blog? Do you write about children or animals? Do the main characters have a unique occupation? Do they come from an interesting place? Maybe their hobbies can stimulate your content? Anything that can connect your story to your articles is a major plus.
2. Know your audience
In order to provide information that will meet the folks you want to meet, you need to do your homework. Start out by discovering the genre in which you normally write. Not all writing fits in perfect little boxes, but you can tell the difference between historical and steam punk, right? Get close to the appropriate genre and then do some research. What type of people normally like that genre?
This is important because you don’t want to write blog content that will be wasted on folks who couldn’t care less about your book. Just because you might like dirt biking or mountain climbing doesn’t mean that the majority of people who read cozy mysteries will like the same thing. Get the picture?
Your facts don’t have to be scientific surveys. You can look through pics of Facebook folks who like your genre, or search the category on a Twitter hashtag. Get a feel for it beyond yourself. What ages, races, genders will go for your book? And what types of things would those ages, races, genders like to read about?
3. Unless you’re an expert, don’t only write for other writers.
This is a hard lesson for me. I call myself a jack of all trades, master of none. I know a little bit about a lot of things, but it’s easy to write about writing, because that’s what I’m doing right now. And in truth, MANY writers devote their entire blog to the journey of publishing —- and successfully! But for me, settling into that easier comfort zone limits my audience. Besides, the authors writing about the world of publishing know a heck of a lot more about it than I do.
So I have to pursue other things that future readers of my Christian Romantic Suspense stories will like.
Armed with my knowledge that I’m smack-dab in the middle of the age group for romance readers, I can look to myself and my friends for things that they are interested in. Some things that come to mind: Homeschooling, craft fairs, church activities, kid activities, art, history, travel, event-planning, interior decorating, weddings, grandchildren.
None of those topics have much to do with my books, but these gals (for the most part) read my genre. I need to delve into things that are interesting to them. (Thankfully they are also interesting to me!)
My stories don’t really have a great hook like a historical premise or a specific population of folks. Set in a fictional small town in Texas, their location also doesn’t draw curiosity or a wealth of topics. So I’ll focus on the fact that they are first – Christian. Thursdays is my posting day for inspiration and devotion.
Tuesdays I’ll hit one of the topics that interest Christian romantic suspense readers. Shouldn’t be too hard since I’m a homeschooling, event-planning, craft fair goer, and scrap-booker with kids nearing the wedding stages of their lives.
That leaves my Wednesdays open for offering helpful information to other writers. As I’m learning, I’d like to share to make someone else’s road easier.
Your turn: Help other writers get a feel for this! What is your favorite genre, your age, and your primary hobby? And while you’re at it, what types of blog posts do you most like to read?


Three Ways for Writers to Make Money Now

Someday, I’ll be a published novelist. Is that your dream? If you’re like me you spend at least a few hours a day trying to make that dream become reality. But the harsh truth is that writing takes time.

Most of the writers/authors that I’ve met along my year-old dive into this community have poured their soul into their stories for five years or more. Yikes! Really? I’d hope to be multi-published by five years with three or four newly-sold series on the horizon.

And that can happen, but usually writers have to wait eons to have their babies take first toddling steps.

So what can an aspiring author do in the meantime to help support a family? As a mom who has always contributed, here and there, this proved a frustrating quandary. But I learned a few things as I skipped through virtual-land this evening.

1. Write for other websites
There are many people on the web who:
  • Don’t know how to write.
  • Don’t know what to write.
  • Don’t have the patience or desire to write.

Yet, they still need a web presence with regular updates and stimulating information. Yea! That’s one place where unpubbed writers can step in. You don’t have to know how to build a website to provide excellent copy for it. You just have to know a few tricks about writing that copy.

For instance, did you know that the average blog reader will only spend 15 seconds on your blog? News flash. If you’ve read this far, you’ve already beaten those odds. Give yourself a high five!

There are all types of opportunities for a well-connected writer to create web info. I found a few articles on tips and tricks: Writing Good Copy and A Beginner’s Guide to Website Copywriting.

2. Create simple websites for local business.
More web skills equal more opportunities.

If you do know a little about the tools of web design. Some HTML of CSS or maybe just have the software programs that can help you with it, many small businesses are interested in you.

Unlimited articles and books of tips and tricks along with the site providers who make design ultra simple eliminate excuses. Give the small business owner a professional site and some dynamite writing to go with it.

But the internet isn’t the only option for supplementing your income.

3. Write for numerous periodicals
Use the Writer’s Market

A couple of decades ago I remember dabbling in the greeting card-writing industry. A two-month summer for a teacher had me bored after only about two weeks. The Writer’s Market became a good friend. I wrote cards and sent queries. Even sold a poem. This annually updated book offers periodical calls for submissions as well as agent and publisher guidelines for all of the different types and genres.

Pour over it. There will be some interest group where you have an area of expertise. Some opportunity where your unique voice, experience, and ability fill the need with perfection. (And fill up your pocket just a little!)

Your turn: What ideas do you have for supplementing your income until your first book sells?

Off on Mondays

I’m still getting used to staying off my blog on Mondays. I can’t help it; I miss the interaction when I’m not spending time with y’all. So I’m just popping by to let you know that I’m planning to review Wildflowers from Winter tomorrow. The book is available for pre-order today, but tomorrow … Yea! … it launches!

Favorite Blog Postings for the Week

Even though I need to take part of the weekend off, I hate skipping a day on my blog! Especially while I have the time to work on it. Once Volleyball season starts, all bets are off!

So this week as I browsed various blogs – and BOY do I browse – I linked a few onto this post.  These were my favorite posts for the week. I started to do a top ten, but it would be just too tough to choose between some of these!

 Sacred Cow-Tipping–Why Writers Blogging About Writing is Bad
Posted by Author Kristen Lamb in Blogging, Social Media Platform on June 7, 2011 from

 How to Build an Online Platform That Will Last
Posted by Author, Jody Hedlund on Wednesday, June 8, 2011

 Preslaysa Williams’ Thin Place: Cutting
Posted by Author, Mary DeMuth on Thursday, June 9, 2011

 Notes from the Beach
Posted by Agent, Rachelle Gardner on Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Posted by Jess Lourey at Inkspot on Friday, June 3, 2011

 Frivolous Friday: Quirky Is The New Normal
Posted by Jessica R. Patch on Friday, June 10, 2011

 5 Tips for Staying Encouraged During Querying
Posted by Author, Elizabeth Spann Craig on Friday, June 10, 2011

What did you see this week that knocked your socks off? Leave a post URL and share what you like with everyone!