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The Successful Author

Writers Must Read to Know What Is Marketable

Reading helps us understand what is marketable before we spend hours writing something that’s not. So does talking to others in the industry, especially agents, editors, and publishers. Also, look at the publishers’ current releases.

As a starting point here are some general principles of what is not marketable. Though there are exceptions, they are rare:

  • A book that’s too long or too short for its genre
  • A book of poetry, unless you’re famous
  • Your autobiography, unless you’re famous or infamous
  • A book of short stories, unless you are an established fiction author
  • A nonfiction book for which you have no authority or credentials
  • A topic of personal suffering that many others have already covered

Aside from that, don’t chase trends. It takes about two years to have a book traditionally published, so by the time we write our trendy piece, the trend could be over, and no one will want our book.

Instead, write what you’re passionate about. Just verify it doesn’t fit into one of the categories of what to avoid. And then write it!

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The Successful Author

Using Clip Art in a Book or Blog Post: Learn How to Protect Yourself

clip art in a book or blog

A writer found some clip art they’re interested in using in their book, but they also had concerns. The terminology is “Royalty-free clipart for commercial use.” Is it safe to use?

First, let me say that I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.

Given that, in my opinion, the phrase gives you the protection you seek for this clip art image. However, I recommend going to a reverse image search engine, such as TinEye.com. You can upload the image in question, and they will check their index to see if anyone claims ownership.

If it’s okay to use, keep a record of the results, and then consult a couple more sites just to be sure. (Just search for “reverse image search engines“ for other options).

If it’s not legally permissible for you to use, then buy a royalty-free license (not an editorial license) or find alternative artwork. If you buy a non-exclusive license than others can use it as well. A more expensive exclusive license means only you can use it.

You can learn more about using clip art and other important book publishing info in Helen Sedwick’s excellent book Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook. (Check out my review.)

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The Successful Author

How to Use Blog Categories for Greater Impact

Use blog categories.

There are three purposes for blog categories.

1. Search Engine Optimization

One use of blog categories is that it helps with search engine optimization (SEO), which allow the search engines to better find and list posts.

2. Reader Engagement

The second use of blog categories is to help readers find similar content. For example, if we blog about three subtopics and a reader is only interested in one of them, then they can click on the category and see just those posts.

3. Writer Organization

A third benefit of using blog categories is to help us in our own organization. Here are two examples: I recently tweaked the focus on one of my blogs, and some of the old posts no longer fit my new vision. Since I had these old posts in one category, it was easy to find and remove them.

In another instance, I decided to draft a book using old blog posts. They were all in one category, which made them easy to find and access.

Selecting Blog Categories

Here are some other items about categories:

  • Having only one category offers no benefits.
  • Having too many categories is confusing. Aim to have three to eight.
  • Using the default of “uncategorized” is unprofessional and accomplishes nothing.

Don’t confuse categories with tags. They seem similar but work differently and have different applications. To learn more, check out my post about categories and tags.

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The Successful Author

How to Protect Blog Content

Legally protect your blog content

A lot of writers wonder if it’s necessary or wise to protect blog content that they post online. What if it is material for other writing projects? Should it be freely accessible online?

First, I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. A great resource is Helen Sedwick’s book Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook. This is an excellent tool that every writer should buy, study, and implement.

Given that, here is what I suggest to protect blog content.

To start, place a copyright notice on your blog. This will help keep honest people honest, and it lets readers know you’re serious about your work. But beyond that, it accomplishes little else.

If you’re concerned with people copying your work, that is stealing it, there is always a chance it could happen. Though the risk is small, there’s nothing you can do to prevent it—short of not blogging—so the best thing is to not worry about it, and post what you want to post.

If the posts will be part of a future book—something many people have done—you might want to hold back some content, but I have heard of bloggers who blogged their entire nonfiction book and didn’t feel it hurt sales. You can also post excerpts from your indie published book.

However, if the posts are from your traditionally published book, check with your publisher. They may not want you to post anything from your book, and depending on your contract with them, it may not even be legal.

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The Successful Author

How to Setup Your Website and Blog

How to setup your website and blog

The Technical Aspect of Setting Up Your Website and Blog

I’m a big fan of WordPress and so are a lot of other people. Thirty percent of the top million websites worldwide rely on WordPress for their website and blog. I recommend you join them and use WordPress to setup your website.

There Are Two Options of WordPress

WordPress.com is simpler and cheaper (approaching free) to setup and use, but it doesn’t have as many features or flexibility.

WordPress.org is a far more powerful website platform, but it’s also more involved to use and setup your website. In addition, there are costs for this option: buying a domain name and paying for hosting.

Regardless, I recommend that you use one of these two WordPress options to setup your website and blog.

WordPress Resources

I have a blog series about getting started with WordPress. I think these posts will get you started quite nicely.

And when it comes time to write for your blog, here’s another series of posts to consider in producing content for your blog.

Happy blogging.

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The Successful Author

How to Discover What to Blog About

Discover what to blog about

To start your own blog, there are two aspects: the technical aspect and the content aspect, what is, what to blog about. Let’s look at the content part of blogging first:

Find Your Blog Focus

If you write whatever you feel like writing (as I did when I started), you will never find an audience. Pick one topic as your blog’s focus. Then go to the next step.

Brainstorm Ideas

With your blog topic or focus determined, brainstorm for ideas. Don’t stop until you hit at least twenty ideas you can blog about. You may not use them all, but at least you know you have plenty of ideas to write about. If you can’t come up with twenty, then you won’t likely be able to sustain your blog, so search for another topic.

Pre-Write Five Blog Posts

Before you even set up your blog, write your first five posts. Some people launch their blog with several posts already there.

Set a Blogging Schedule

You should plan to blog at least once a week. How long did it take to write each of your posts? Do you have that much time every week to devote to it?

If you still want to blog, you can move forward with the technical aspects of setting up a blog. More on that in future posts.

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The Successful Author

Submit Your Post and Article to Blogs

To submit your post to blogs, the first thing to do is see if your target blog runs guest posts. Many do not. They may state this on their site, or you may need to search their archives to find out.

Next, as with print, familiarize yourself with the blog. Look at the content they post, the length of the posts, and the writing tone. Try to match those characteristics.

They may post their submission guidelines, or you may need to email them and ask how to go about submitting a post. Follow their expectations exactly.

Then before you submit your post proofread it carefully. Then email it to them.

I wish you the best when you submit your posts and articles to blogs and websites.

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The Successful Author

More on Blogging Your Book

Blogging your book.

Is blogging your book a good idea? If you blog your book, why will people buy it? Logic suggests they wouldn’t, but the reality is that most people will.

Let me share what I’ve learned from other writers. I’ve yet to talk to anyone who felt their blog posts hurt their book sales. Even when their entire book is available on their blog, they still think their posts help sales, not hurt it.

My conclusion is that it comes down to convenience. It’s easier to read a book than to page through a series of posts on a website. Also, the purpose of blogs is for short, intermittent reading, while books have the opposite goal. Therefore, blogging your book is okay.

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The Successful Author

Blogging Your Book for Fiction and Nonfiction Writers

 blogging your book

Many people wonder if you can blog your book. This is a common question and answers differ. Here are my blogging tips for blogging your book.

Fiction Writers

For fiction writers, you can blog about your book’s content: setting, characters, and supporting background, but you can’t dole out your book in blog-sized chunks. Of course, there have been exceptions, but they’re rare.

Nonfiction Writers

This is not the case with nonfiction, where you can compile a series of posts into a book or incrementally post sections of a book in a blog.

Even if you’ve blogged the entire book and it’s available for free, authors have still had success in selling the same information in book form.

Summary about Blogging Your Book

So for nonfiction writers, blogging your book is okay. But this isn’t the case for fiction authors.

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The Successful Author

Writing a Book Versus Blogging

Book Versus Blogging

If you want to write a book and blog, what should you do? It’s a book versus blogging debate. Too many writers starting out try to do both and end up doing neither one well. Or they try to write a book before they’re ready.

Then they end up with something not suitable for publication, waste a lot of time, and cause much frustration. That’s assuming they finish the book, but more likely is that they’ll give up before they finish—because they’re not yet ready to write a book.

Unless you’ve done a lot of writing—say about one million words and invested about 10,000 hours honing your skill—I recommend you start with blogging or writing short articles, essays, or flash fiction.

Blogging and short pieces offer several advantages:

  • Blog posts are short and easy to write.
  • Blogging is a great way to hone our writing skills and find our voice.
  • Feedback is quick.
  • Errors are easy to fix.
  • Bloggers develop a habit of writing regularly, even when they don’t feel like it.
  • Blogging according to a schedule—which is what all bloggers should do—helps prepare us to meet deadlines.
  • Blogging prepares us to write longer pieces, up to the length of a book.

There are many other benefits associated with blogging, but these are some of the key ones, which is why I recommend that you start with blogging or writing other short pieces. Save the book for later.