Blogs, Author Platforms, and Connecting (pt 6)

Blogs, Author Platforms, and Connecting (pt 6)

Drstuey at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

And, we’re back once again to discuss platforming.  So far, it’s mostly been about working on the “backside” of your platform.  Today, we’ve finally built up your original foundation that you are ready to branch out and expand on what you’ve done so far.  There are three key ideas to make this happen.  I’ll try to cover them in a reasonable order, so if it looks like the discussion is going to run long (even for me), I’ll break it up.

Ready to get started?

The first, and easiest way to expand your platform is to reuse content that you’ve been building up on your blog for other areas of the social media platform.  There are many sites that say you “must” do this or you “must” do that.  In some ways, I’ll jump on that bandwagon, and others I’ll say it’s a bunch of hogwash.  About the only “must” you’ll want to develop for yourself is your authenticity.

I know there are bloggers, authors, writers of every stripe and shape who use a screen name or pseudonym for about as many reasons as there are psudonyms.  Do not let the term “authentic” deter you if you are one of this group.  You can still be perfectly authentic, and maintain your anonymity.

For now, we’ll go with the concept of reusing your content.  Yes, I know, I’ve just said that twice in the same screen.  It is because it’s is a good way to get started.

But, how do you reuse your content?

For starters, if you’re on WordPress, and other sites, such as Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, or Facebook, the solution is easy.  Link your accounts together.  You can set it up so there is a two-way information flow, or you can set it up so it is only one way.  For me, since I’m a bit of a glutton for punishment, I’ve set my information flow to flow from the blog out with no return input.  It makes it a little harder to get the engagement from followers, but I follow the concept that the blog is the heart of my platform.  Facebook makes up the blood vessels, and twitter and/or tumblr is the actual blood.  In this circulation model, you don’t want the turbulence from the blood to flow back and interfere with how the heart or blood vessels are functioning.  (I’m still trying to figure out tumblr, and tweet too much to make feeding my twitter feed back to Facebook logical.)

OK, going to back up a second here to that comment about Twitter…

Twitter is a very fast moving platform.  If you don’t have an account, this section may not be important to you.  If you WANT an account, or want to figure out what to do with it, then I highly advise looking through Nat Russo’s blog series Here about twitter.  He’s done an excellent job in breaking down not just how to set up an account, but also some of the basics for that platform.  There is a TON to learn there, so don’t expect to master it overnight.  With the information Nat has published, I’m not going to go into the basics – he’s done it better, and probably much more clearly than I ever could.

However, there is one point I’m going to emphasize now.  If you do feed your blog posts to twitter, and expect them to be seen – you’re going to be disappointed.  Twitter is a constant river of information.  A LOT of information.  I don’t remember the exact number of tweets go out every minute, but I do remember it was huge.  And, your one tweet when your blog post goes out will get drowned out quickly.

Tumblr is similar.  Not quite as fast paced, but still very busy all the time.

For these two planks of your platform, you’ll need to have some strategy to help ensure your posts get seen.  (That goes for all of the social media sights, not just Twitter and Tumblr, but it’s a bit more important for these two.)

The easiest way, and one that can lead to a bad gaff if you’re not careful, is to use one of the third party scheduling apps.  I prefer Hootsuite, but others prefer Buffer, or tweetdeck.  Once again, I advise looking around and investigating the many different options out there before selecting the one that works best for you.

A wonderful friend of mine hosted a guest post for me about how to reuse your blog content for Twitter.  You can find the article over Here on his blog.  For just what to reuse, head on over there.  If you already have an idea of what you want to use, then let’s get to the nuts and bolts of trying to get your content noticed in a good way.

Yes, I deliberately said “in a good way.”  One of the common, and more irritating ways I have run into, ways of getting content noticed is for the author of the tweet to use the same tweet, or some close variation of it, over and over again in a small time frame.  If you are working on a deadline for a release, or campaign, I can understand doing this.  It is a short term, short duration “spam” activity.  It can generate some results, but don’t expect them to be over the top.  Often, if someone starts doing this, and it goes on longer than a couple of hours, that person will either be muted (if they are lucky) or unfollowed.  That is not what you are trying to accomplish.

While being unfollowed on Twitter does not have the same impact as it does on Facebook, it does mean there is one less person you are reaching, and one less potential reader you can engage with.

Using the third party apps to schedule your tweets can lead to this occurring, and is one of the biggest reasons why many would strongly suggest not using them.  However, I believe that most, if not all of you reading this, have day jobs, or other things in life that pull you away from Twitter.  And, keeping your name in the feed is always a good thing.  You just want the attention you are receiving to be positive as well.    So, when you set up your schedule, you have to answer the same questions for Twitter you answered about your posts – how often do you want your content to go out?  How much content do you want to go out?  And, how long do you want to “work” your presence in the stream of consciousness that makes up your followers Twitter feeds?  These answers are important, as they will help define how you set up your schedule.

Since I keep an active schedule on the blog, posting a new post for each of my daily series, I want those posts to be seen.  That means I’ll have to have a minimum of 7 posts per day for each of them.  I choose to run a week behind on when my Twitter schedule picks up the posts to ensure that I have active links to use in the tweets themselves.  I don’t want to risk scheduling a post that hasn’t gone live, and generating a “dead” link for a few tweets – you never know for certain who is going to click on that link and follow it back to your blog post.

And, since just one post will tend to get drowned out in the feed, even if I just posted my seven tweets, I’ll get some exposure, but probably not enough.  I like to run three tweets per day for each of the posts.  That’s 21 tweets to set up for each day.  Since my following is world-wide, I want to make sure everyone has a chance to see the entire set.  Again, I recognize that as readers, not everyone is able to hang out on Twitter all day, or even for the same time every day.  And, so I have a staggered schedule.  I am “on the air” for twenty two hours a day, seven days a week.  When I set up the schedule, I start at 2 AM local, and run until 10 PM local.  That’s a LOT of tweets!

Here’s where the savvy comes into play.  Remember I said I have a staggered schedule?  Here’s what I mean:

Sunday I’ll start at 2 AM with the first tweet of the week.  It’s always the author interview I hosted the week before.  Every hour, I’ll move to the next series – character interviews, the behind the scene posts, the platforming post, a piece of my original work (poem, short story, flash fiction), A book review, and a filler piece to make a total of 7.  The filler usually is an extra book review or second character interview, though I’ve also used a second piece of original work for the slot as well.

Monday starts at 2 AM with the character interview and ends the rotation with the author interview.

Each day will start with the next series in the week, so that each day has a different post series to start the day off.  I then fill in the rest of the schedule in rotation.  It’s a pain in the backside to do in Hootsuite if you’re scheduling each post individually.  There is a work around, however.  I’ve had a few people ask me about it, so here’s the cheat sheet version:

  • Open Hootsuite
  • Go into the scheduler tab (left hand side, the little arrow that says “publisher”)
  • Go to “Past Scheduled” – this should come up with an over view of the current week.  If not, in the upper right hand corner, click on “week” to get this calendar view.
  • Have your selected tweets in a separate program.  I prefer Word, because I like tables.  I’ve also used Notepad and tried to use Excel (Excel didn’t work out too well)
  • If your monitor is big enough, shrink your browser window to just over half the screen so you can have your other document beside it.
  • Start copy/pasting your tweets into the days/times you want them to go out.  The trick is to work a week in advance.  Since Hootsuite starts their week on Sunday, you’ll want to double check the dates.  You CAN work in the current week – I’ve done it – but if you make a mistake everything you’ve copied will vanish when you correct the tweet.  Handy if you’re assembling a super-busy tweet schedule – because you have a fresh canvas just by advancing to the next week, and then coming back to the current one.
  • When you’re done scheduling, head over to the home screen (little house icon with “streams” beside it), and take some time to interact with your the various feeds you’ve set up.

I tend to work in tweetdeck for the interactions, since Hootsuite is delayed quite a bit.  But, I prefer Hootsuite for the scheduling, especially now that they’ve figured out how to enable you to attach images to your tweets.

You can also connect your Facebook, Google +, LinkedIn, and Instagram accounts, though if you are using the free version, you can only link 3 profiles.  Each profile also has it’s own fresh page for the schedule, so if you want to set up a series of scheduled posts for the other social media platforms, you can.  I prefer to have a little more personal control over my Facebook, so just focus on scheduling for Twitter.

 

Seeing as this is heading into super-long territory, I’m going to let you go for this week.  Feel free to experiment with what I’ve mentioned, and if you are so inclined, leave a comment below about what worked or didn’t work for you.  I’m always learning, so the way I’ve presented may be flawed, or you may find a way that works better.

Happy blogging!

 

If you’ve missed the previous installment of the series, you can find it Here and the entire series Here

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Making the Story Work

By Charles Haigh-Wood (1856-1927) (http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/19563/lot/108/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This post is sparked from an ongoing discussion with another author friend of mine.  There’s a few things that will come up which make us vastly different authors, yet somehow I am seen as the more experienced.  (Don’t ask me.  I’m still extremely wet behind the ears.)

I have made no bones about the fact that I am an extreme panster.  I’ve tried the plotting idea, and it didn’t work.  I wound up with a pile of words that made no sense, had no plot, and resembled something that even a garden bed would toss out.  I’ve tried the idea of just working for a general concept to center the story around.  That wound up with something that sort of made sense, but with a final result of a story without any punch, and died about halfway through.  The story proliferated the cast in retribution of my cutting back to where things were going as I wanted them to, and trying to rebuild.  That explosive cast growth caused an extremely cliche’ death scene, and left such a foul taste in my mouth I could not continue to even try to write it.  I may eventually go back, and see if I can resuscitate that story again.  If I do, it will be many, many years into the future.

It was not until after I decided not to write that I was able to actually finish my first novel.  I’m still working on the story, so cannot say I have finished that… yet.  As I do not have a catalog of titles a mile long, or even one that would required more than one page, I do my best not to write anything about HOW to write.  However, what I am saying here is something I think many new, up-and-coming, and even more experienced writers have run into:  How to make the story work.

 

For me, I do this by staying out of the way of my story.  When I try to add any type of guidance or leadership, the story retaliates.  If I am lucky, it’s just a bad idea jam that stalls progress for a few months.  In the worst case scenario, it is a complete literary explosion that results in such destruction the story must be declared dead on scene.  Yet, others have found their own way of making a story work while intimately plotting every twist, turn, and idea that goes into their plot.  There has to be a common theme in there, right?

Yes, there is.  And, it is one I think that is so super simple it is difficult to master.  Trust.  Trust that the story will work out, and trust that your characters are strong enough to do what needs to be done.  Without this trust, the doubt, distraction, and lack of surety about the end will creep up to ambush the writer and make it very, very hard for the story to be completed.

This is not to say you will never feel doubt.  Nor do I mean that you will never experience a sense of dread that what you have just finished is something the garden would reject.  What I am saying is that when you trust your story and characters, you are able to forge ahead.  It may only be a word or two for months at a time.  It may be a gully washer of a word added day, but there will be progress.

I am not going to get into details about what this trust entails, because that is between the writer and their story.  I could give a few anecdotes about what I have encountered – but I am not.  What works for me, may not work for you.

There are a few techniques, as a pantster that I am watching work to a lesser degree for my plotter friend.  These I will share, because they seem to be useful to both sides of the great planning divide.  And, this was advice given to me when I found myself staring at a log jam of ideas so big I hadn’t even managed to chisel a single word out of the mess in over a month.

In terms of interacting with people, when you think of trust, what comes to mind?  You ask them to help with something, and you trust them to respond one way or another from past experiences.  You ask them a question, and because you know that person, you know if you can trust what they tell you (or at least how far you can trust it to be truthful.)  Do the same for your characters.  Get to know them, learn who they are and how they think.  For those comfortable working with character sheets – write one up.  For those who prefer something that feels a little more like “visiting in person” find an interview questionnaire you enjoy reading and interview your character.  For those, like me, who prefer to just know the character, then write a flash ficition piece (or two or three) from that character’s point of view.  All of these will help you get to know who (or what) that person is you are writing about.

Will it generate a bucket load of extra information about that one character?  You bet!  Will you want to include all of that extra information?  Umm… probably not.  Will getting to know the character in such depth make it easier to write about them?  Probably.  Will having this type of intimate detail about the character get you through the log jam of ideas you’re facing down?  I cannot answer that.  But, if you trust that it can, the chances are – it will.

So, what do you do when the story turns into a balky, sulky toddler that is throwing a tantrum?  In part, it will depend on what type of general writer you are.  Pansters – give the poor thing room to breathe.  Plotters – perhaps if you eased up on how strictly you were plotting the story it could help.  Otherwise, go back to the flash fiction idea.  It doesn’t matter if your story is told from first, second, or third person.  Pull out each of the key characters and write a flash fiction piece targeted at solving all, or part, of the problem from that character’s own abilities and the material on hand.  Write it from a first person point of view.  In doing so, you are able to evaluate what is driving the characters to solve the problem.

Is this a guaranteed solution?  Nope.  Have I found it useful?  Yuppers.  Have I seen it work for others?  Uh-huh, I sure have.

So, how do you build your trust in your story?  Comment below, as I’m always interested in learning other ways.  (Not to mention, what you say may just be what someone else needs to hear.)

Justine Alley Dowsett Stops By To Visit With The Pukah

Welcome, welcome.  Come on in, and find a comfortable seat.  Today, we’ve Justine Alley Dowsett from Windsor, Ontario Canada down to visit with us.  Justine, do you mind starting us off with a little bit about yourself and where you are from?

  • I’m an author and publisher and one of the owners of Mirror World Publishing.

Do you remember what sparked your interest in writing, and what led you to start your journey?

  • I began writing seriously when I was fifteen.  I wrote two novels while in high school. They were terrible, but great learning experiences. I started writing because all I’ve ever wanted to be was an author.
  • I’ve always read a lot, in both French and English. I can only presume that’s what caused me to want to be an author.
  • My first published book is Neo Central. It’s a YA dystopian science-fiction adventure with a bit of romance thrown in. I wrote it with the help of my sister and a mutual friend of ours. It started as a game actually. We wrote the first draft on a role-playing forum and later through extensive edits, I re-wrote it as a novel.

A fellow gamer-turned-author!  Never expected to meet another one.  Must sit down one of these years and compare notes.  As you progressed through your writer’s journey, do you have an instance that you look back at and say, “There!  That’s when I became a writer.”?

  • A writer, always, but an author… it wasn’t until I had published my first book and was holding the paperback in my hands.

::Chuckles::  Publishing anything is an accomplishment, and to get it into hard copy is even better.  Are you working on any projects that you can share with us?

  • My seventh novel, Unintended launches August 17th! It’s a Shakespearian-style romantic comedy about the unintentional consequences of good intentions.
  • Well, releasing Unintended on August 17th , then working on a top secret writing project while I focus on the rest of Mirror World’s Summer of New Releases. We have a handful more books slated to come out this year.
  • Of course! Here’s the short blurb:
    Four people. Four very different lives. Four tales interwoven.Meet Kenzie en Shareed, the High Clan Chief’s daughter who is sent south to fulfill a treaty by marriage only to marry the wrong man; Kadrean Authier, the Crown Prince who must come to terms with his new bride, even if he doesn’t much like the idea; Garron D’Arbonne, a noble Lord who has been commanded to marry a cool and aloof princess he doesn’t love; and Vivianne Chappelle, a young and ambitious woman who is in love with her abusive father’s manservant and must find a way to avoid having her entire future decided for her.Fate and wills collide in this Shakespearian-style romantic comedy about good intentions and their unintentional consequences.

I’m intrigued by your titles.  Do you have a method to select them, or do they develop organically as you write?

  • I have seven novels… most of the titles are a result of brainstorming, but a lot of the finished novels ended up keeping their working titles. Neo Central is the name of the city the story is based around and Unintended came about as a result of the unintended nature of the story. My sister, who is my co-author, and I didn’t know it was going to be such an unintended success.

With all the reading I’m sure you do as a publisher, has this affected your writing style, or do you manage to keep yours unique?

  • My writing is very focused on the characters and the dialogue. I like both to be believable and engaging. My novels are also pretty much always set in a fantasy setting. I like books that can take you away to other worlds. That’s why I opened Mirror World Publishing, so I could offer just that.

Sounds like you manage to keep your reading from affecting your writing.  Do you have any books or authors who’ve helped shape you into the writer you are today?

  • Anything by Anne Bishop. Her dark fantasy worlds are inspiring. Brandon Sanderson for his action sequences and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon for her romance and sense of realism.

Are any of these someone you’d consider to be a mentor figure for you, or is there someone else to fill that role?

  • David Eddings. His Belgariad series really got me thinking about world building.

I loved that series too.  It sounds like you’ve got a hectic schedule.  Do you find time to read for fun in there?

  • The Family by Choice series by Caroline Frechette. She’s an author and publisher like me, based out of Ottawa, Ontario.

Sounds interesting.  Is she the only indie author who’s caught your attention, or are there others?

  • Many! Mirror World Publishing just took on a whole slew of awesome authors. Sharon Ledwith for one, Rita Monette, Elizabeth J. M. Walker, Matthew Freake… the list goes on. They are all awesome and you can find them on our website. http://www.mirrorworldpublishing.com

From everyone that you’ve read to date, who’s your favorite author?

  • Brandon Sanderson, currently. His action sequences and world-building skills are unparalleled. If you like fantasy, I suggest his Mistborn trilogy.

I’ve had someone else recommend that series.  Definitely need to look into it.  Going back to your work, do you ever weave in messages for your readers to find?

  • As with all of the novels we publish, we just want to offer readers a chance to escape the mundane by offering them an alternative world to visit. Hopefully they learn something while there, but that’s not always necessary. My novels specifically tend to share a theme of overcoming adversity.

A message well worth delivering through any media.  Do you ever draw from your own experiences or reality to help give your work an edge of realism?

  • Um… very little of my books are realistic. The characters act like real people would, but the settings and the circumstances are often fantastic.
  • [As for using my experiences:] Only loosely. Sometimes I base characters or character traits on those I have observed in others, but most often everything I write is completely made up.

Do you have a non-family support group to cheer you on when things get rough?

  • It’s still family, but my co-author is my sister. We’ve been through it all together from the first book until now. We are both just hoping that Unintended will be a big success for us.

From where you are now on your writing adventure, do you feel that writing has become your career?

  • Yes and publishing.

If you were to start the journey over again with all the knowledge you’ve gained along the way, would you do anything different?

  • Absolutely not! I love the way Unintended turned out and so did the BETA readers. We’ve gotten some great feedback and I’m really excited about this new release!

What about the challenges you’ve faced along the way?  I’m sure there were more than a few lessons mixed in as well.  Any you can share with us?

  • Not really no. After seven books, I feel I’ve gotten it down to a science. Of course, I’m always learning and improving, but the basic skills are there now. Writing isn’t the hard part, marketing and getting the book to its audience is.
  • Staying focused. It’s all too easy to let a busy lifestyle get in the way, but it’s important to write every day or as near to it as possible to keep your head in the story.
  • [I learned] that I write better when I’m having fun with it. Writing Unintended was a blast and the fun my sister and I had is now filtering through to our readers.

All lessons I think every writer has to learn in their own time.  And, I’m sure many writers have to face sooner or later.  Did you have any challenges with the covers, or did you work with someone to have them designed?

  • Various artists. My favorite to work with is Sara Biddle. www.salizabeth.net. She’s done Mirror’s Hope, Mirror’s Heart and now, Unintended.

Last big question:  What advice would you pass on to your fellow authors?

  • Write every day. Seriously. It’s the best way to stay focused and motivated.

::Looks away a little too innocently::  Hmm?  I do agree, however about keeping your focus when you’re writing.

Justine, thank you for coming over.  Before I close out the interview, any final words for our readers?

  • Give Unintended a chance. I promise you will love it. It’s comedic, romantic and a true escape from reality. Go read it… go on, go. I’ll wait. J

I’ll help spread word as best I can.  Thank you again for stopping by.

If you’ve enjoyed the interview, and wish to connect with Justine, you can find her on the following sites:

Website, Blog (Mirrorworld Publishing), Facebook, and Twitter.

 

 

Blogs, Author Platforms, and Connecting (pt 5)

Blogs, Author Platforms, and Connecting (pt 5)

By JeffreyVromant (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

We’ve been talking about keeping your posts organized.  When you were setting up your blog, you made the decision about what types of posts you’d be making, how often you’d be posting, and where you’d be feeding the posts through to.  If you have an active blog, like I do, there will come a time when you need to start organizing the posts for others to find them.  And, tables are my preferred way.

There are several negatives to using tables, the biggest of which is that it puts another layer of choices between your potential reader and the information you hope they find.  If you are using your blog as a sale point, this can seriously impact your sales.  Recently I came across a statistic that every time you add a choice, you lose somewhere in the neighborhood of 90% of your readers.  That is a rather substantial loss for anyone.  Before you decide to add in a list, table, or other selection point, you do need to take that loss of viewers into account.  Maintaining the tables can also be a big time hog, and so may not be a good option  – even if your posts, post series, or post material are a good candidate for the table format.

The positives for me, however, outweigh that negative.  Because I have so many posts, and I want them to be accessible all the time without anyone having to scroll, and scroll, and scroll, or search and search (hoping they hit the right search string).  The way I set up my tables lets me do that.  Depending on your blog’s theme, adding in tables may be an easy process, or it could take a LOT of work to make them look just right.

I won’t go into how to code the tables, though I’d be glad to discuss it should there be enough interest.  There are several wonderful HTML coding references on the web you can find with a quick Google search.  I’m going to stay on track for how to connect with your readers, future readers, and anyone else who comes across your blog.  (I hope.)

The only reason I bring up organization, is because there are some blogs that unless you know exactly what you are looking for, you will never find it.  And others are so easy to navigate that finding that tidbit of information you need right now falls right into your hand.  Organization is how that comes about.  That doesn’t mean the information you’re posting shouldn’t be engaging (which is a whole other subject I’m still figuring out), but it does mean the content you’re posting can be found easily.

When you are organizing your posts into some type of selection category – either through menus, tables, charts, word clouds, or what ever, you need to make sure the selection options are understandable and relevant.  In a way, this ties back with tagging your posts.  It would make no sense to post a book review under “interviews”, if the interview is the main focus of your post.  Even if there is an interview that is part of the post, not everyone will know that the first time they look for it.  It is acceptable to organize the dual-purpose post under both selection criteria, however.  It allows people to find it either way.  And that is part of making your content accessible.

And that brings me to the last point of this piece of the platforming story.

When you are posting, you CAN choose to have a post serve many purposes.  An example is when I host tour posts for T.J.’s Virtual Tours.  Most often, those posts have a bit about the author, some type of mini-interview, and either a group of reviews, or examples from the book that’s being toured.  A lot depends on what type of tour I’m participating in.  And, it is also a cross connection to other blogs, which helps with overall discoverability for me.

That is a lot of what platforming is – it’s getting yourself discovered.  And, having your content organized so others can access it easily makes that process a little easier.

I think I’ve dropped enough big pieces of information for you to think about for one post.  So, I’ll let you think, and see about following my own recommendations.  There’s a lot of content hidden around my blog, and while some of it I’m keeping “off the radar”, I need to do some maintenance so the rest of it can be found.  Happy platforming, and we’ll see you next time when I’ll dive into the concept of how your blog content can be used to expand your platform.

If you’ve missed the previous installment of the series, you can find it Here and the entire series Here

Blogs, Author Platforms, and Connecting (pt. 4)

By Patafisik (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Welcome back.  Ready for the next step?

Today, I’ll be talking about how to set up your posts on a schedule, and finalize any modifications you may wish to make to your blog.  I know, I know, there’s quite a few posts out and about that talk about some of this, I’m just adding my two cents to the pile.

 

So, let’s get started.

I’ll start with the easy one, since that will take up the least amount of time.  If you’ve been following along with this series, you should have a pile of blogs stashed away in your “drafts” folder.  You could come back once or twice a week and open the individual posts you want to publish that day and just hit publish.  For those who intend to just have one post per week, that is probably the best idea, actually.  One, it makes sure you visit your blog regularly to respond to comments, check up on the other blogs you may be following, and do any maintenance you may need to do.

For those who intend to have a more active blog, or whose life is really busy, this is usually not an attractive idea.  I know some who are extremely busy, and just can’t pry the time loose to come over and publish a post regularly.  And, that is one of the things with blogs – if you want it to be found and develop a loyal following, you’ll want the posts to be as regular as possible.  It’s OK to have some down time, but you don’t want to let that happen very often.  (And, from painful experience, try to post a warning before you go silent!)

So, how DO you schedule your posts?

If you’ll take a look at your side bar on the right – where the list of categories, tags, and all that good stuff is – at the top is a box that looks something like this:

Scheduling

If you’re in the new format, it will probably look something like this:

 

Scheduling New

Now, what you’ll want to do:

  1. Open the post you want to schedule
  2. In the “old” menu – click on “publish immediately”
  3. In the “new” menu – click on the date
  4. This should open up a drop down calendar, or at least a menu to choose from
  5. Set the date you want your post to publish.
  6. Set the TIME you want your post to publish – if you’ve set up your blog to reflect your personal time zone, it will post at that time according to your clock.  If you are using the default time, it will post at that time in GREENWICH time.  (Example:  I set this post to go out at 12:01, and it went live at 12:01 AM CST/ 6:01 AM Greenwich).  Normally, this isn’t an issue when scheduling posts, but if you are part of a blog tour or blog hop and are scheduled to post a certain amount of time after the one before (or a certain amount of time before another blog), you’ll need to keep this in mind.
  7. Click that big blue button.  It should say “publish”.  You can add a step if you prefer, by clicking “OK” under the time stamp you just set up if it makes you feel better.  I’ve done both, and will continue to use both.  There’s times I just don’t quite trust the “Publish” button to pick up on the schedule.
  8. Lather, rinse, repeat as often as you like for the rest of your posts.

One thing to be aware of – when you schedule a post, the date is automatically inserted into your post’s URL.  If you are posting into a new month, and sending out links for others to use for prescheduling, you will want to make sure that the link is still good when the months change.  There have been reports of the pre-scheduled posts having bad links because of this issue.  If it’s only for your blog, then this won’t be an issue.  The post will go out live when you scheduled it, and all will be well.

 

Now, to change gears.  You’re blog is coming together, you’re putting out content regularly, and yet … you still want to make your pages feel more like you.  That’s where the customizing comes into play.  Something I highly recommend after a painful, personal experience:  set up a second blog.  It’s not going to be published, or your main focus.  You just want somewhere you can experiment that won’t affect your current blog.  (Yes, anything you do through the customize menu DOES affect your blog, even if you haven’t hit the “publish” or “save” button.  It’s not so bad with new blogs, but once you’ve had yours up and running a while, it can sting quite a bit having to go through and figure out how to fix what you accidentally broke.)

There’s a few things I know folks like to do to tweak the customization more than the standard theme layout allows.  I’ll try to cover these.

Background

With every theme, you are given a default background.  Most of the time, what is offered is fine.  However, if you want to modify it, there is a way.  It will take a little bit of tech savvy to make it work, but it is possible.

  • Hover over “My Sites” and on the drop down menu, click on “Customize”  This will take you back into the customization menu where you started when you set up the blog in the first place.
  • Click on “Colors and Background”  to open up the new menu
  • Hover over the background color, and click “Change” to open the options menu
  • Here you can select your own color, but clicking on that link – just drag the little circle to the color you want, orbackground
  • You can click on “Select Image” to use an image as your background.
    • The thing with using images is that you’ll want to use a small image that tiles properly.
      • You can use a single big image, but with so much of the world today using mobile devices, that image can get shrunk, skewed, or altered into something you wouldn’t recognize, and potentially something offensive.
    • When selecting an image that tiles, try to find one with a pattern on the edge that smoothly flows on all four sides.

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This one almost works, and if you are using it for your background, you can probably get away with it.  Maybe.

Note how when you’re transitioning from the first tile on the left to the one beside it, how the puzzle pieces look like they’ve  been sliced.  They have been – that’s the edge of the “tile” image.  This is really what you don’t want to see.  And, the transition from the top tile to the bottom is even worse.  It’s very obvious that there is an edge between the two tiles.

 

The background I use for my blog is an image.  I got it back when I started playing around with building websites, and it is a custom background image.  It was designed to flow smoothly between tiles, so that there were no obvious edges.

If you are someone who likes playing with graphics, there is nothing stopping you from creating your own background image.  Even if you’re not comfortable playing on the artistic side of the street (and not everyone is), you can still find images that will work.  I believe some may still be free, others you may have to pay a small fee to use.  Just make sure you know what the license agreement is.  The last thing you want to have happen is to have a take down notice posted to your blog because you didn’t have the right to use the image.  (goes for any images you use on your blog.)

Depending on the theme you chose, there are a few other image options available.  One of them is the “Featured Image”.  This will set the image you selected at the top of your post.  The downside is that it must be an image you’ve uploaded.  I don’t use this option, preferring to insert my images through the “Add Media” button.  This gives me the flexibility to either find an image on the web that I like, and insert the image via the web address, or upload an image if I can’t find one I like.

 

The other common customization I’ve seen (and used) and wish were used more often helps organize things a bit.  Actually, there are two customizations that fall into this category.  One is the “jump” link which is used for on-page navigation, the other is columns or tables.

For the jump links, the Word Press techs have a nice post about how to do this.  In fact, that’s where I learned to do it for my Reviews page.  You can find the article Here.  It requires a little bit of tech savvy to do this one, but it’s still in the range of “easy”.  I’m going to save Tables and Columns for their own post because that requires a LOT more space, and is a bit more complicated.  I’ll show you my way of doing it, and for anyone else who has ideas, I’d greatly appreciate hearing about it!

Now that you’ve got your blog coming together, and posts going out on a schedule, I’d like to hear back – what do you want to hear about when it comes to platforming and making connections?

 

If you’ve missed the previous installment of the series, you can find it Here and the entire series Here