Handling Fanmail

I started reading “Guerrilla Marketing for Writers”. One thing that struck me as was this:

“You can show your involvement with your fans by being cordial when you contact them, by being helpful to them, and by asking about them.”

Almost no one does that any more in the great big, fast, condensed world of email. Yet, I think most people have felt short changed by some one sentence, abbreviated email reply. Why don’t we show an interest in the people we email with? Especially if you are writing to someone who has shown an interest in you, or whatever you are selling. Is it so greatly time consuming? Is it too hard to write over the one sentence quota? Or do you really just not care?

The advice from the Guerrilla Marketers is good advice. You really can win people over if you show some interest in them. Maybe they have just read your book or something you wrote on a website. First of all, it’s pretty amazing that you got feedback at all. Not may people bother to send a note. When you have the chance to reply to feedback, take it.

Make the most of the chance to connect with someone. Send them your promotional spiel, your upcoming books, articles and where you are writing online but also send them answers to their questions and some questions of your own. Give them a reason to write back, or at least remember you.

/There is a lot of email flying around out there. Adding HTML and graphics isn’t the best way to make yours stand out. Ordinary, old fashioned chit chat is free, takes up a lot less bandwidth and is far more impressive.

The Email Subject Line

Lovely, luscious readers, tonight I have two, count them, two great, sensational, momentous ideas for you! Can you tell I’m kind of enthusiastic tonight? !! Too much coffee I fear. But it was GOOD coffee!

Anyway, idea number one. Next time you need to write a short bio for yourself pick up a magazine. Have you ever read the bios they print for the contributing writers. Well, you don’t know what you’ve been missing. Of course, not all of them are as magnificent as your own will be. But, they give you a great vantage point to start your own. You can even collect the best of the best contributors bios in a file and use them to keep yours even better by comparison.

OK, now you’re revved up for idea number two. Who can blame you. I’m so revved up a this point I may never need to sleep at all tonight. Wouldn’t that be nice. Think of all I could get DONE.

You will be thanking me for sharing these words of wisdom with you for many moons to come. Basically, use the space/ line for ‘subject’ in your emails. Use it, use it wisely, cautiously and smartly. Don’t be a knob and type in ‘hi’. What do you think happens to any email which looks like spam? Right! It gets the quick flush. Your email will not be read if you leave an ambiguous subject line or, worse, if you completely forget to add one at all. Don’t be an email loser, make good use of the subject line and warn others to do the same. That way people won’t be asking you why you never read their email. Unless of course, they only send those forwarded joke emails that you never actually do read. Who can blame you?!! For yourself you will now heed this grand advice and never again darken your email subject line with useless, unclear drivel. Instead, go forth and type in clear, concise and clever subject lines to alert your readers just who you are and why they should not randomly delete your very important email as spam.

So that’s it for tonight. I suggest you all drink coffee and stay up with me. We can write about the moon, scribble odes to the moon. Write on.

A Writer’s Website

Here are my ideas about making a writer’s site an asset to you and a resource for others to come to. It’s a bit scattered as I am leaving for Ottawa tomorrow and have some family stuff ongoing. But, I wanted to share the ideas while they were brewing around in my brain.

I think blogs are a great way to go. They take over a lot of the grunt work and are still fresh and creative. Avoid going the LiveJournal route though. Your blog should look like something you have done, not a clone from another site. Getting your own domain is a huge asset, if you can afford the cost. This will also give you an email address which does not include the words Yahoo, Hotmail or AOL.

The best thing about a blog on your website is keeping your site freshly updated and making it interactive without too much fuss on your part. You can update daily, or a few times a week. Just add an inspirational quote, a writing tip you’ve found that works, jot down a new publisher/ market you’ve found, scan a sketch or photograph you’ve come across and add it to your blog.

However, a blog doesn’t have to be the focus of your site. Make it a sidebar on your main site, a secondary page or a secondary site. It really does help to keep traffic to your site if they can expect to have something to read when they get there. Avoid link rot, stagnating pages and a bland site in general by adding a blog. Be creative, that’s what we do!

Also, blogs run on text mainly. If you are not a great graphic artist a few simple text graphics are really all you need. Look for a font you like and make a banner to head your blog. Keep the colours simple and easy to read. Add some smaller text graphics as navigation links if you have more than one page. Include a text graphic with your email address. This will foil spam bots as well as they can’t read graphics, only HTML. br /br /Check out other writer’s sites and see what they come up with. Avoid copying anything, instead make your own unique version of the idea. Turn it around to suit you and your own site.

Monitor your traffic cause it does give you a nice ego boost to see people actually coming to your site. Keep a guest book or some form of message boards available. People are more likely to leave a quickie note than send an email. Especially if they can leave a link to their own site behind, self promotion. When you get feedback, answer it as soon as possible.

You can boost your ratings/ rankings with Google by getting your site linked to on bigger sites. So email the webmasters and ask for a linkback. Explain who you are, what your site offers and always offer to link to them too.

If you go with the blog plan and turn your site into a resource of some kind (for writers, for hobbyists, or for the topic you write about) you will find it easier to get linkbacks as you are offering original content. Webmasters and directory editors want original content with simple navigation. If you create it, they will come.

Consider ways of going out to your readers, catching them at home. Send out an email to subscribers each time you update your site. Give a preview of what you ar updating with. Start a newsletter with your best content of the month/ week, depending on how much work you can put into it.

Work on the webring idea. Make yourself part of a chain of sites. When you submit your site to web directories suck as Dmoz send the listed editor an email. Be polite and courteous. Add your URL to your email signature and make a point of joining relevant email lists, forums and newsgroups. Post when you have something to add to the chat, not just to self promote. If you seem interesting people will click on your signature links. Leave comments in guestbooks too. Even if only the site owner sees your link he/ she could be a contact to cultivate. After all, you came to visit them.

Offer free content to ezines relevant to your genre. Set yourself up as an expert on your topic/ genre. Always include your byline with linkage (also known as a resource box) at the end of each article. Stage chats on your site and make sure you are there on time for however long you set the chat. Or moderate your message boards, don’t leave questions unanswered. Set up surveys, quizzes and personality test type things. People seem to be addicted to clicking those. It doesn’t have to be rocket science.

Give freebies of some sort. If you are graphically inclined offer desktop wallpaper. If you write books offer desktop wallpaper of the cover art from your latest book. Link to sites you have found useful. Either handy web gadgets for writers or something useful for people interested in your topic/ genre. Keep these links checked and eliminate/ fix link rot right away.

If you can, offer a coupon or discount on the purchase of your book. Better still, give them out to those who come to your webcasts (web chats) or subscribers of your newsletter.

If you make appearances or attend events keep a schedule available on your site too. Of course, keep it updated. You can also keep readers up to date with what you are working on. Let them know you are writing a fresh chapter, proofreading copy, mailing out an article, hearing back from that promising editor, etc. Also, write about professional organizations you are a part of, as they relate to your work. Let your site become a news portal for them. This is especially nice for hobbyists, crafty types and such. You can become their guide to what’s going on. Not so tough for you since you will already be keeping track for your writing.

Make sure you also include all your essentials for self promotion. Contact information, clips, the services you offer, and so on.

Writing is a business, not just an art. Happy webbing.

Free Content

I’ve used contributed and/ or free content before. But, it brings it’s own set of difficulties. Before you jump into this, thinking how much easier your life will be consider the following:

1) Unless you want content geared to website promotion, you may be out of luck. The main topic of free content is about site promotion, one way or another. This is changing, slowly. As you find articles to use the well will run dry. Eventually you may find you are spending more time looking for fresh content than it would have taken to write it yourself. If you do find a good writer this way, keep in contact and ask if they have other articles you could use.

2) People who post to free content sites don’t always read the rules. I’ve had authors demand I stop using their content. Some claimed it had expiry dates, some claimed the full article was never meant to be used, just a teaser with a link back to their own site. One expected me to change the format of my pages to suit her article. Before you use a free content site, read the rules, be aware of them. Before using any free content send an email to the writer. Give them an outline of how the content will be used, keep it short and simple.

3) Formatting is hell. Do I need to elaborate? If you have ever cut and pasted a large body of text to a site you are familiar with the backspace and up and down keys on your keyboard. The most aggravating part of using content which you cut and paste from another site is making it fit into your own site’s layout. Yes, this is a small thing but over time it is seriously aggravating. Ask if all contributed content can be sent to you in plain text files. You can at least hope.

4) Grammar, punctuation and spelling. I’m not a dictionary myself but I try to learn from my mistakes, I proofread and I run spellcheck. I don’t understand why everyone who writes can’t do the same. But, you may find yourself editing a lot of contributed content.

I’m not against using free or contributed content but it’s not the perfect answer to filling up your zine with greatness. On the plus side, you won’t be the only one talking. It is good to have more than your own voice, ideas and experiences. It’s great to have something you can rely on when you’re pressed for time, out of ideas or just don’t want to write. Making contacts and networking is another plus. But, it’s not all free and easy. Be aware of the pitfalls.

Bugmenot.com – login with these free web passwords to bypass compulsory registration

http://bugmenot.com/

I like that someone is protesting all this. I hate registering for sites. It’s a pain to login each time and I think most of them are just using it as an excuse to harvest email addresses (and all the other information they can get out of you). I seldom join sites any more, just cause I really hate registering for anything now. What’s the point when I just want to make one post to a forum and will likely never remember to come back again.