Guest Blogging and Guest Hosting

Marketing Your Debut Novel Part IV

I’ve been doing a series on marketing your debut novel. You can find Part I, Part II and Part III here by clicking the links.

Briefly, Part I focused on growing your tribe/social media, Part II was about the comparable books section of your book proposal, and Part III was about the audience section of the book proposal. These all focused on one particular area of the writer’s life–the pre-contract phase.

Let’s depart that phase and begin concentrating on the next phase– the contract submission phase. I’m going to define this part of the writer’s life as the time you or your agent are submitting your book proposal but haven’t yet signed a contract.

You may think…there’s marketing to be done during this phase? Yes, absolutely. For me, this phase lasted from December 2009 to April 2011–almost 18 months! Definitely too much time to be sitting idle.

One thing you can be doing during this phase is hosting other authors/experts on your blog and guest blogging on others’ blogs that support your brand. This will lend to your credibility and should also help internet search engines highlight sites with your name. The more sites, the more opportunities for people to find you and the more exposure you have to people who may not have discovered you yet.

My primary blog, Redwood’s Medical Edge, deals with writing medically authentic fiction. This supports my overall suspense brand because I discuss ways to injure, maim, and kill fictional characters.

To help grow my blog and support my brand (therefore exposing Proof to more potential buyers), I began looking for opportunities to guest blog and looked for other authors to host.

For example, I wrote pieces for other blogs that dealt with strategies an author could use for medical research, common medical mistakes in fiction writing, and even offered real medical advice to parents over at Christian Mama’s Guide. Erin is a non-fiction author who published a guide on having a baby and although Erin’s blog is not a suspense blog at all, my guest blogging allowed me an opportunity to reach possible new readers and lent her blog credibility by having an expert post. A true win/win situation.

I also hosted authors like Richard Mabry, CJ Lyons, and Candace Calvert. I hoped to drive their readers, whose fiction is similar to mine, to my blog to learn more about me and possibly become future buyers of my fiction.

Though this isn’t specific to guest blogging/hosting, I did follow many on Twitter who mentioned they were authors. I sent one direct message to them telling them about my blog. From that, I’ve gotten several additional authors to guest blog for me. In return for guest blogging, I highlight them, their books, and their internet presence.

Some people argue that my strategy, primarily focusing on authors as my initial tribe, will not boost sales in the end. We’ll have to see if what they say is true but I know I’m an author and an avid book fan and have bought many more books because I’ve built relationships with these authors and grown to love them as friends.

Next post in this series, we’ll go over how to be a generous blog host and good guest blogger.

How about you? What are some strategies you’ve used to gain readership by hosting guests on your blog and/or guest blogging other places?

Your Name is Your Brand

I’ve been delving a lot into marketing books and I’ve garnered a few nuggets that I thought would be helpful to those who are beginning to develop their on-line presence—and maybe change the minds of a few who are already there.

Your name is your brand.

In writing, there’s a lot of talk about what your brand is. Put simply, your brand is a promise to your readers. If you write historical novels then write an edgy supernatural thriller—your historical followers are busy scratching their heads and your new readers are doing the same when they look at your previously published books. Writers who have deviated a lot from their promise usually suffer in sales.

But more important than that is how will your readers find you. When they search Twitter and Facebook for your profile, how easy are you making it for them? If your author name is Joe Smith but your Twitter handle is @hottexasdude3000—how simple are you making it for your potential buyers to discover you and your product. And yes, I did search for that moniker and it seems to be wide open for those who would like to claim it.

Let’s focus on Twitter. Your handle should not be:

1. Something funny and quirky. Though this may garner a lot of followers, it’s probably doing little to build your brand. Especially if you don’t write quirky or funny—not that you can’t be that way personally. Name first. Image second. Your presence should have a consistent feel among your blog, web site, etc…

2. A character in your novel or book title. What happens when your publishing house hates that name? They require you to change it. Now, it’s time spent explaining to all your happy followers that Derek Storm (just love Castle!) is dead. Oh, that’s another reason. You as the author decide to kill the main character. Unless you are in a position to have complete control over your books, this is risky.

3. Your blog. Again, your blog should support your brand. Not be the brand. When people Google search, they’re going to look for your name first. They may discover your fine blog through your name search but the opposite may not be true. My name gets far more Google hits than my blog name. This is what you want to shoot for.

What if you’ve done one of these fatal errors? Relax. It can be changed. Why postpone the inevitable? Work to make these changes now. Make your name your brand. Work to have a consistent feel among your social media sites. There’s always room for improvement. Even though my Twitter and Facebook profiles are my name, I need to improve the feel so it speaks suspense.

How about you? Is your name your brand? If not, why not? Do you think you should change it?

What’s Your Klout Score?

I have to admit, I’m a numbers girl, which may strike you as funny because math is certainly not my talent. Likely, it comes from my nursing background and my need for instant gratification. My “real-life” job concerns fixing my patient’s numbers—moving them in the right direction. Lowering temperature, easing difficulty breathing, or bringing back a heart rate when there isn’t one. It’s all about trending in the right direction. Wrong patient trends need intervention.

Recently, I was reading Rachelle Gardner’s blog and came across her discussion on “numbers” and how you could use certain statistics, like blog hits, in your book proposal to help a publisher make a decision to go forward with your novel. Of course, a strong book is paramount but it is foolish to think that a potential employer, your publisher, isn’t looking at your on-line presence as a way to help their decision.

Rachelle mentioned a Klout score and I hadn’t heard of this so off to the website I go.

Klout, in one place, analyzes the effectiveness of your on-line presence. Once you allow it access from your social networking sites—and they do have a lot of them—it performs some genius unknown mathematical calculation so you can get a glimpse of your on-line life in a couple of areas.

First score measures your influence. It’s based on a scale of 1-100. One hundred being the best score you can have. Currently, I’m at 42.23 which places me as a “Dabbler”. Under Klout style, it will show other people you likely know, what their score is and where they land style-wise. That was a fun comparison because I knew several of the people and their on-line presence. Most I admire as something to aim toward.

Then is your true reach score. This measures how many people you influence. My score is currently 404. The site allows you to see other people’s scores as well. I compared myself to a known author and her reach was 877. I didn’t necessarily feel bad about that. She has three novels currently published and a savvy internet presence.

Next score is amplification which is how much you influence people. My score currently sits at 19. Not great but I’m just starting out so a definite growth opportunity—not weakness, right?

Last score is for network. This scores the impact of your network. The more people that comment, share and respond to your content, the higher your score will be. My score here is 51.

Klout also looks at topics you’re influential about. Mine are medical (yeah!), technology (really?), authors (excellent), blogging (surprised!) and childbirth (yikes—don’t ask me how.)

Also, it will list who you influence and whom your influenced by. Fun information.

Overall, I think Klout will be a good way to measure your on-line presence and whether or not it is growing. Sometimes, when I look at my Blogger statistics, I think the information is limited. I can see my stats are increasing but for me, that just may be more people are perusing by. That’s not bad but I like how Klout looks at your influence and overall reach. These are good numbers to gauge. If they are steadily climbing, my efforts are working versus a downturn would lead me to consider changing up what I’m doing.

Are you on Klout? What’s your score? Have you used your scores to change what you’re doing on-line?

For an alternate opinion on how valuable this score is, check out this post entitled: Why Your Klout Score is Meaningless.


Brand Basics

If you’re interested in delving into this business of publishing, then you’ve likely heard a lot of talk about branding. Simply put, branding clearly identifies you with a product. For the author, it might be their brand of fiction or their platform. Your brand is strong if someone hears either your book or your name and can identify the other. For instance, if I said “Stephen King”, certain things would pop into your mind even if you’ve never picked up one of his novels. If I said, “The Shining”, you could likely name the author. Stephen King has a strong brand.

Your brand needs to be supported by your internet presence such as your blog or web site. Think about the images you want to portray. Are you a contemporary women’s author? Then, your site should have a different “feel” compared to someone who writes suspense.

I worked with Tekeme Studios for my blog design. First hurdle to overcome was the content of the blog. How can I be different from the other thousands of blogs that are out there? What I noticed myself doing was answering a lot of medical questions for fellow writers. I couldn’t find anyone else with this type of blog. That was good because perhaps I could provide a service for other authors that was thus far unfulfilled.

Second was to think of the feelings I wanted to invoke when people first visited my site. For me, these were intrigue, medical, with a slight suspense feel.

Here was the first design:

Here comes the third part. You have to be willing to speak up if you don’t like the design. After all, this is your brand and your investment. You should have strong feelings about it. For me, the design read historical. The man was dressed in period garb and the cabin looked like one you’d find on the frontier. This image didn’t support my brand as a suspense novelist. Plus, I‘m a woman and why did it need to be a man answering those calls for help? Also, too bright and orange (not a huge fan of that color). Not an ominous feel at all.

You’ll know you’re with the right design team when they understand your concerns about the design and are not offended about making changes. After discussing my concerns, it became as follows. You can check out the full implemented design at

My challenge to you:  Are you thinking about what your brand is? How are you evoking that brand image with your internet presence? Ask people to visit your site and give you thoughts about what they feel. If you’re a suspense writer, people should feel ominous… maybe a little worried, like they will when they read your novels.

These are some examples of authors who I think have portrayed this well. Visit their sites for a little homework. Do they have a strong brand? Do they evoke certain feelings when you see their imagery? I think what they’re doing supports their brand of novels.

  1. Brandilyn Collins
  2. Tosca Lee
  3. Robert Liparulo

What are some things you’re doing to support your brand?

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