Write About your Flag

As found on a Facebook profile today:

A hero of war
Is that what they see
Just medals and scars
So damn proud of me
And I brought home that flag
Now it gathers dust
It’s a flag that I love
But not one that I trust

Sad to read that one. What do you think? Does it make you sad, angry or something else? Write something about the flag of your country. The flag is an inanimate object so when you write about it you need to write from the point of view of someone who can have feelings, thoughts and talk about them.

The Food Project Blog Challenges

Food Buzz had ten challenges for food bloggers in their Food Project Blog. The contest is over, the winner announced. But the challenges can inspire some fresh ideas for all bloggers, of every niche.

#1 Ready, Set, Blog!
Recipe for Success. Be yourself and be present. – This was where the bloggers enter the challenge and introduce themselves to everyone else participating.

#2 The Classics
Cooking outside your comfort zone. – Food bloggers were to tackle a new dish outside of their usual fare, a foreign dish was suggested. But I would think foreign dishes are not the only option a creative food blogger could come up with. How about a chocolate sculpture?

#3 Luxury Dinner Party
Impress your guests. Hosting a luxurious dinner party. – Bloggers create and promote their event and readers on the Food Buzz site vote on which they would most like to attend.

#4 Picture Perfect
Designing a dish for the camera. – Tutorials can help you learn food photography so you can take scrumptious photos for your blog. Tempt readers to take a bite.

#5 Recipe Remix
Honing your technique, make a recipe your own. Contestants were to take the typical pizza and turn it into their own unique creation.

#6 Road Trip!
Food to go, presentation is king. Design a meal to go on the road, one that can be carried around and still come out looking good enough to eat.

#7 Video 411.
Lights, camera, cook. The challenge is to make a video in order to teach your recipe to your readers, or the readers of Food Buzz in this case.

#8 Piece of Cake.
How to get a great performance from your oven. A seasonal ingredient was used to bake something that shows off a knowledge of the science behind baking.

#9 You’re the Critic
Asserting your opinion and telling a story. The bloggers take it out to a restaurant, write their own review and rate the dining out experience.

#10 The Final Post
By this time the challengers were narrowed down to three. They were given a last chance to post about their experiences during the challenge and what they learned.

This must have been a fabulous experience for all the bloggers who kept up with it all. Even if they were out of the running by some point, it would have been a real achievement just to do all ten of the challenges.

Look at the list and think about what you could do, step out of your own comfort zone and try something new with your blog.

If you have a food related blog you can find Food Buzz on the web, on Twitter and on Facebook.

DIY Blog Book Tour

A blog book tour is usually hosted by a book author, one blogger or a tour service and consists of several bloggers making scheduled posts on their blogs, networking with social media, in order to promote the book for the author.

Tours are held for a new book release but could be used as promotion for a book already available. Blog book tours use word of mouth and buzz. Book authors will see their keywords bring stronger results as they are used in various blogs on the tour with the link to the author and his or her book.

As the host for the tour you will work with the author and make arrangements for bloggers to become involved. If you are doing it yourself you are both host and book author, you’re going to be busy!

Before you Contact any Bloggers:

Check your own site and links for the book. Make sure everything is in working order. Check the link where your book is available to be purchased, make sure you can access everything right down to making a purchase. If you don’t have a site, set one up along with social media accounts which can be used to promote the book tour, the book itself and keep in contact with everyone involved in the book tour. You also want to promote the book tour itself, let everyone know your plans for the event, post the tour schedule of posts and link to each blogger participating. This is your time to shine with networking while you have something to tell people about.

Give yourself time to do the work for the book tour. Set a reasonable time limit that gives you working time and yet isn’t so far into the future that the bloggers forget or lose interest in the project. Give yourself time for planning, shipping books out to be reviewed and read by the bloggers too. There is a lot of planning and organizing, it is reasonable to expect you will need a month or more.

Choosing Bloggers:

Pick bloggers who are in your niche. If you are writing fiction you will need to look at a lot of book review blogs, but see if you can get something a bit outside the box. How about a related topic to your genre? If you are a non-fiction writer you should have a lot of blogs to choose from but, be picky. Look at the content already published in the blog, what does it say about the blogger, their style and the level of content versus advertising. Does this blogger care about their image, their reputation as a source of information in the niche and how will their blog reflect on your own image and reputation? Find bloggers with ethics to match your own standard/ style.

Don’t restrict yourself to just looking at blogs in order to find bloggers to join the tour. Use Twitter, Facebook and other social media to find bloggers and as a method of contacting them. Don’t rely strictly on email as a way to communicate, not everyone reads every email and yours might be one which gets lumped in by their email spam catcher.

When you have found a blogger who works well with you, keep track of them. Keep in touch and ask them to be part of your next blog tour or give you an author interview on their blog in between tours. You could also write guest posts for them in their niche topic, with your link in the author profile to be used with the guest post.

Have a look at anyone who has a podcast which is relevant to your book. Be creative and use the new media.

Contacting Bloggers:

When contacting the bloggers make sure you give them all the information about the book (name, author, a blurb about the book and links to find it online) as well as your own contact information and everything they need to know to plan their own involvement in the book tour. Use the blogger’s name and blog title in any email or tweet you send them. Keep a list handy so you don’t get a name wrong or send a “Dear Sir” to anyone.

Set out Rules for your Bloggers to Follow:

How long should posts be? How many (and which) links must be included in the post? What about keywords? Do you want book reviews to be favourable or do they have leeway to write what they really think and feel? (If you want this you really should just get friends to do reviews for you or offer to pay for the posts). What types of media can the bloggers use: video, photographs, plain text? Do you want each blogger to make a post to Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and other social media to announce the book tour before and when the post goes live? What happens if they miss their date on the posting schedule?  Write out expectations so everything is clear up front.

Your Own To-Do List:

As you get bloggers interested and involved in the book tour write up a blurb about each of them, introduce them to each other and your readers. Be friendly and complimentary. Take some time to read their blog, the about page on their blog too. Put some time into it and talk about why you chose them to be part of the book tour, what you value about them and the blog they have built.

Send out your business card and a thank you note with the review copy of your book.

Be creative with your interviews and guest posts. You are setting the standard for the others to follow by the effort you make yourself. Come up with something that individually suits the blog the content is appearing on. This will also make it easier to be unique each time, even if you write a dozen posts for the same book. Of course, don’t forget to sell your book. Come up with something that sells your book to the readers of each blog, find something you have in common with the blogger or a recent post they made in the niche they write about.

Make a point of going to each blog in the tour, reading their posts and leaving relevant comments before the tour begins even. Establish contact, keep in contact and keep them from losing track of the event and their place in it.

Another option for content is an excerpt from your book or a fictional interview with a character in a fiction genre book. If a blogger really runs dry on something to post see if they can draw, cartoon or sketch something to run as a post. You can offer a free copy of the book to be given away to one of the readers of a tour blog. Pick the winner by the person who left the best comment, or some other criteria in tune with the book itself if possible.

Need Something Simpler?

If running a book tour yourself seems like taking on too much give yourself a smaller scale book tour. Go to blogs, forums and networks which have discussions about your book topic and participate. Link to yourself whenever possible, you can even use a direct link to a blog post which promotes your book. Generate your own buzz by talking about yourself and your book. Don’t go overboard. Keep your comments and posts relevant to the ongoing discussion. Even if you don’t mention your book you still get to add your link to the comments and posts you make. If you seem intelligent people will be interested enough to find out who you are and what you are working on.

There are a lot of sites which focus on reviewing books. Contact them, send your information and links, ask to have your book reviewed. Give them a blurb about the book along with your pitch.

Extra Resources:

Blog Book Tours – Some posts about blog book tours. They also host Yahoo Groups for blog tour discussions and a blog tour class/ workshop.

Pump Your Book – Extra information on this blog for bloggers, book tour hosts and writers.

Let’s Talk Virtual Book Tours – Authors talk about book tours they have done and results they have gotten.

Book Market – Links to online promotion and book tour resources.

Grow Your Own Writing Business – A post about virtual book tours in co-ordination with  others or on your own.

The Dabbling Mum – A post about hosting your own blog tour event.

The Boss of You – An example of how to write an introduction to each of the bloggers participating in the blog book tour. A little compliment and friendliness goes a long way.

KidzBookBuzz – An example of the information set up and made easy to use for bloggers in the book tour.

Blog Tour Services Looking for People to Host Tours:

Pump Up Your Book

TLC Book Tours

WordPress Snow Where Ever you Go

I’ve begun using WP Effects to bring a few stray snowflakes to my blog this month. With WP Effect you can set it to have a massive snowstorm or just a trickle. I thought a trickle was enough. If I look out my window chances are I can see more snow, if I want to. I don’t mind the snow really. It gets rid of a lot of bugs and other living and sub-living things. A harder Winter gives me an easier Summer with my asthma.

Anyway, I thought I would make a list of snowy plugins for anyone who likes the idea and wants to do the same. I found WP Beginner has done the same but only mentioned one plugin, there are actually a few and each is a bit different (of course).

  • WP Effects is the snow plugin I am using right now. The snowflakes are big, they remind me of those huge soft flakes that fall when it is pretty mild outside. I like those Winter days. This plugin will also let you choose other image files or add those you make yourself. You can use them for falling leaves, raindrops, lucky clovers, as you desire. With WP Effects you can set the amount of snowfall to blizzard or a single snowflake.
  • Snow, Balloons and More – This one also lets you choose different images files, snow speed and other options. One good feature I like is being able to put the snow on a timer and have it turn off for someone who is staying on your blog to read awhile. The snow could be distracting for a reader so this is a good thing.  This same page has a link for a fireworks and birthday balloon plugin as well. A very feature rich plugin.

Plugins for snow only:

  • Snowstorm shows you how to customize the script yourself. You can give your snowflakes a blue tinge, set them to twinkle and set the amount of snow to be falling. The flakes here are small white dots, some might like the smaller image. The plugin author also offers a script to have Christmas lights along the top of your blog. They will all break if you hover your mouse over them.
  • Javascript Snowflake Generator – Not a lot of information about the script other than a screenshot. It works just fine and was updated in November (2010) but I don’t know if it has any extra features to make it more adaptable.

You can set up a plugin which gives you snow people on your blog. They load once and then give a Merry Christmas and go away. Very cute.

As an extra, I just noticed that Island Paradise, one of the few Facebook games I still play, has just added snow to their game. It looks very pretty. How long does it take you to become saturated with pretty? I know there will be some people complaining about the use of snow in the game or on weblogs too. Some people just are that way, overly critical and Grinchy. I don’t take them seriously until it’s been snowing at least a week on my blog. Then, they might have reason to feel it’s snowed long enough. Still, it is up to me to decide how much snowfall there will be. I still like it!

How Does Your Syndication Grow?

We are all so syndicated these days. Using social media like Twitter and Facebook to post our posts to other networks and then the feed readers which have lost some popularity, we have been able to build a much bigger network for what we write. Do you still count subscribers? Do you know where to look for an amount of subscribers? Or does Google Analytics give you all the reader and social statistics you need?

Ben wrote about counting your Twitter followers as subscribers. This works for me. However, not all of those people are following you for your blog. If you are using Twitter well you post more than regurgitated blog entries. You should be posting relevant content as well as every day this and that which makes you seem like a real person with something to say. People are far more interesting to follow on Twitter if they post random thoughts, link to other content they find and interact with other people on Twitter. You hope they will also have a look at your blog, but there is no guarantee. Does it matter? That depends on why you keep the blog, is it a tool, a part of the whole or do you need people at the blog to make your money?

Ben also wrote about making your feed useful again. It’s a good post. If you want to revamp your feed he has ideas that will work for you. I’m going to leave mine to dwell in the land of dust bunnies. As I commented on Ben’s blog, I just don’t have the time to put into this online tool any more. It isn’t as useful for me as other options, like Twitter.

I don’t know when I will ever have time to edit my feed reader. I have really given up on it years ago, never actually got into the whole thing really. I do use Twitter and especially Facebook as my feed reader now. I miss a lot and I am fine with that. I’m not trying to be omnipotent or anything like that. What I do catch is enough. The main thing is keeping a balance in my life so I am not feeling pressured to stay up all night just catching up on things. I spend a lot more time on maintenance and promotion than I actually write anything. It’s amazing how much time gets sucked up on stuff no one really sees. I also try to be social and that isn’t something I am good at. I’d happily be a social hermit and just leave everything to be read and not put myself into the picture at all.

What does it take for you to feel read? What numbers work for you? I’ve got the WordPress.com Stats plugin and that gives me a daily head count. Of course, it’s not perfect. It omits extra details like what people read, what people were real versus comment spammers and most of all it doesn’t tell me what people liked about my site. But, the generic numbers are enough for me. The main reason I like to watch traffic is the same reason I am a clock watcher at work. It keeps me going. As I count up the readers or down the hours I know where I am headed and I keep myself on track. I have a goal I can attain.

Must-Follow Personality?

Here are the categories for Mashable’s 4th Annual Awards:

Best Location-Based Service
Best Mobile Device
Best Mobile Game
Best Mobile Platform
Best Mobile User Experience
Best Music Discovery Service
Best New Gadget
Best Online Game
Best Social Media Management Tool
Best Social Media Service for Small Business
Best Use of an API
Best Web Video
Best Website User Experience
Breakthrough Website Design
Entrepreneur of the Year
Most Creative Social Good Campaign
Most Creative Social Media Campaign
Most Promising New Company
Must-Follow Brand
Must-Follow Non-Profit
Must-Follow Personality

Do you have anyone that comes to mind for vote for? I’ve got a few people in mind. Send in your votes on the site through your Twitter or Facebook account. (They assume everyone has one or the other).

Could you Write for a TV Show?

I found a job posting for someone to write for a TV show here in Toronto. I bet it would be an interesting job. I’m too far outside of Toronto to be there for the meetings and such. I doubt they would want to make it a telecommute sort of thing. Anyway, here is the information posted about the job just for the interest of knowing what they expect and what they are looking for.

Position: Journalist/Writer, Marilyn Denis Show, Digital Media (12 month contract)
Location: CTV-299 Queen Street West, M5V 2Z5
Salary: Commensurate with qualifications and experience
Hours of Work: 40 hours per week. Overtime as required.

Responsibilities:
The Marilyn Denis Show is looking for a sharp, savvy, energetic writer to help us develop and deliver the voice of the Marilyn Denis show online. Reporting to the Lead Producer of Digital Media, this position will work with both the broadcast and digital group and will be responsible for:
•Developing and executing fresh ideas to support the brand, which includes interviews, articles, photos and video to enhance the website experience
•Participating in production meetings and brainstorms
•Other duties as required

Qualifications:
•2-4 years experience developing content for online audiences, preferably in an editorial capacity
•Must have strong lifestyle and entertainment background; clear and concise writing ability as well as an excellent command of the English language with the ability to write accurate and engaging content
•Ability to conceptualize and deliver content across various platforms; broadcast, web, mobile and social. .
•Self –starting individual with a passion for lifestyle topics such as fashion, beauty, home décor, health and wellness, as well as popular entertainment categories (television, movies, music)
•Ability to work under constant tight deadlines; time management skills and multi-tasking abilities are essential.
•Excellent interpersonal skills with a strong focus on collaboration and communication. Must be able to work individually or as part of a team.
•Must be familiar with social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.
•Knowledge of HTML, FTP and Photoshop an asset.
•Broadcast experience an asset.
•Must have a valid driver’s license and passport as travel may be required.

Is this your dream job? Why not look into a job with TV shows in your local area? They are out there, see if you can talk your way into something great you never dreamed of even asking for before. If you have what they are looking for, give it to them!