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Posts Tagged ‘finding an audience’

Ten ways to blog better — (but 20 more you missed!)

In behavior, blogging, education, Media, Technology on November 11, 2013 at 1:44 pm

By Caitlin Kelly

Broadside now has more than 8,060 readers worldwide, adding new followers daily.

Here are are 10 of the 30 tips I shared yesterday with the students in my webinar, “Better Blogging.” I hope you’ll sign up for the next one. I also do individual coaching; if you’re interested in learning more, please email me at learntowritebetter@gmail.com.

photo(6)

Please use photos, videos, drawings — visuals!

I wish more bloggers consistently added quality visual content to their posts. Often, a well-chosen, quirky or beautiful image will pull in a curious reader more quickly than your very best words.

Every magazine or newspaper, and the best blogs and websites, uses illustrations, maps, graphs and photos — chosen carefully after much internal debate by skilled graphics and design and photo editors and art directors, each working hard every single day to lure us in. A sea of words is both daunting and dull. Seduce your readers, as they do.

Think like an editor

When you write for an editor, (as every journalist and author does), your ideas, and how you plan to express them, have to pass muster with someone else, often several. Their job is to ask you why you think this story is worth doing, and why now. (Just because you feel like hitting “publish” doesn’t mean you should.)

Who is this post — and your blog — written for? Have you made your points clearly?

Would your next post get past a smart editor or two?

Your readers are busy, easily bored and quickly distracted

All readers resemble very small tired children — they have short attention spans and wander off within seconds. Grab them fast! Keep them reading to the very end using “golden coins”. (Tip No. 30!)

Woo me with a fab headline

Magazine editors sweat over coverlines, the teasing short sentences they choose to put on their magazine covers, hoping to make you buy their edition over that of their competitors. Newspaper editors know they need powerful, succinct or amusing headlines to catch our eye and pull us into a story.

Have you ever studied some of the best heads? “Headless body found in topless bar” is a classic. This is an excellent headline as it immediately made me read the post — it’s bossy, very specific and focused on a place I know well. Sold!

Here’s a link to how to write great heads –  and another.

Break your posts into many paragraphs, and keep them short

Don’t force readers to confront a huge unbroken block of copy! It’s lazy and editorially rude. They’ll just click away, irritated. (I see this on too many blogs.)

Post more frequently

A blog that only pops up every few months is the sign of someone who just isn’t that into blogging. Yes, it’s a lot of work. Yes, it takes time. Once you’ve found an audience, your readers want to read more of what you have to say! Don’t disappoint them.

Or less

Some bloggers, giddy with the delicious freedom of being able to hit “publish” after every thought flitting through their head, post constantly. Do your readers really have that much time or interest?

We’re not writing for ourselves, but our readers’ pleasure.

Your readers probably don’t live nearby, and may not get your points of reference

While you assume we know the cafe/restaurant/politician/streets you’re referring to, we probably don’t. Remember that your readers — and potential new followers — are coming to you from all over the world. Which is incredibly cool! But consider  including links or a helpful brief explanation so we feel included, not shut out by our (natural) ignorance of what’s super-familiar to you.

English: Broadway show billboards at the corne...

English: Broadway show billboards at the corner of 7th Avenue and West 47th Street in Times Square in New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Edit, copy-edit and proofread

Lightning — not lightening.

Palate — not pallet.

Spell-check will leave plenty of terrible errors in your posts. Read each one over carefully at least three times before hitting “publish.”

Introduce yourself

Is your “about” page still empty? Why?

In a world jammed with competing voices, why should readers choose to listen to yours?

Who are you? Where do you live? Have you any specific experience or credentials that add authority to your posts?

The best “about” pages include an attractive photo of you, some fun facts and a few paragraphs that give us a taste of your voice and point of view. It’s your very own editor’s page or movie trailer, and ideally makes us eager to dive into your archives.

I love the one here, at key and arrow, written by a young couple in Austin, Texas — it’s quirky, charming and informative. (Their logo and header are also terrific.)

PLEASE SIGN UP FOR THE NEXT WEBINAR — LEARN TO THINK LIKE A REPORTER — 4:00 p.m. SUNDAY NOV. 17 AT 4:00 P.M. EST.

DETAILS AND REGISTRATION HERE.

The expectation of attention

In behavior, blogging, books, business, culture, design, journalism, life, work on September 4, 2013 at 3:26 am

By Caitlin Kelly

Do you expect to be listened to?

I’ve been writing for a living since 1978, when I was still an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, and started writing for national magazines and Canada’s national newspaper The Globe and Mail.

I spent my teens attending summer camp, where every month we’d put on a musical, some fab creation from the 1950s like Flower Drum Song or Hello Dolly. I almost always won the lead.

Flower Drum Song

Flower Drum Song (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every Sunday evening, we’d put on a Talent Show and I’d get up with my guitar and a song I’d written that day to sing it to 300 people.

It only struck me — reading Sue Healy’s brilliant blog about writing, (and she’s a former journalist) — that, as a default position, I expect to be able to hold and keep people’s attention.

Before you all un-follow, with snorts of dismay and derision, let me explain why this is a huge advantage, especially for ambitious writers and bloggers.

Newer writers seem to fear rejection, or fear that whatever it is you hope to convey just isn’t all that interesting.

Pshaw!

You have to assume someone does want to hear/read you, that you have the talent and guile and charm and story to woo and win them for 20 or 30 or 100 minutes.

OK, maybe five, on the Internet!

Journalism offers phenomenal preparation for other attention-seeking work, whether dance, music or more writing. You have to produce something every day, sometimes every hour. (I once had to write a television news story in the two minutes of a commercial break.)

You have to crank out a ton of stuff, certainly if you work for a daily paper or, worse, a wire service or web site.

Some of it is really shitty. Some of it is amazing, stuff you read decades later with pride. You will also see other writers (grrrrr) win front page and fellowships and awards and make the best-seller list.

You, oh misery, do not.

But you must wake up the next day and re-assume the same confident stance, that your work and your ideas are worth the attention of others. What’s the alternative? Lying in bed weeping in the fetal position?

Not you!

I was lucky, in some ways, to be an only child, never competing for my parents’ attention with a crowd of siblings. I had a sort of brassy self-confidence I’ve never really understood, although I’m damn grateful for it. I rarely worry about putting my stuff out there (even if I should!)

The standard American cliche is “stepping up to the plate” — i.e. home plate, where you stand in order to hit a baseball or softball. As someone who still plays softball (and can hit to the outfield), I know how nervous it can make you.

Everyone’s watching! What if you miss? What if you can’t even make it to first base? What if you hit a fly and someone catches it?

NOTICEME

NOTICEME (Photo credit: Beadzoid)

But what happens when you hit a single/double/triple — or home run? Huzzah!

If you’re still feeling nervous about blogging, or sending your creations into the world for approval/sale/attention, just do it.

(But do not, I beg you, be all foot-shuffling and hand-wringing and ‘I don’t know what to blog about.’ Don’t be boring. Take a risk!)

Yes, some of your work will be ignored and rejected. My third book proposal goes out this week, (shriek), and has already been rejected by the people who published “Malled.” I asked my editor why and received a short, polite and helpful reply.

In the old days, I would never have asked.

My first two books, when their proposals were sent to major publishers, each received 25 rejections before the 26th. said yes. Both have won terrific reviews and been bought by libraries world-wide.

So I anticipate, (albeit pre-cringing at how nasty some of the rejections can be), more of the same. I hope not. But it happens. Rejection is the cost of doing this business.

This essay, about my divorce, won the Canadian National Magazine Award for humor — after being laughingly dismissed by an editor at one of the U.S.’s biggest women’s magazines.

Focused attention has become one of the world’s most precious resources.

But, oh, the joy when you’ve won it!

And again.

And again…

Who’s your audience? At what cost?

In behavior, blogging, books, business, culture, design, entertainment, journalism, men, Money, movies, news on February 25, 2013 at 8:04 pm

If you missed last night’s Oscars, lucky you!

I watched Seth MacFarlane as host — and yes, I had to Google him — and thought “Seriously?” I found him crude, sophomoric (freshmanic? even better) and deeply off-putting.

English: Seth MacFarlane at the 2010 Comic Con...

English: Seth MacFarlane at the 2010 Comic Con in San Diego (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am not, however, the demographic the Academy Awards producers so desperately crave, 18 to 49 year old men. By hiring MacFarlane, and larding the show with sexist, racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic “jokes”, they thought for sure they had a win.

And they did.

But for every teen boy yukking it up out there, a million others, men and women of all ages, were tweeting and Facebooking their shock and disgust throughout, and after, the show.

Sure, grow your audience…

At what cost?

From msn.money.com:

Seth MacFarlane was full of surprises when he hosted the Oscar awards show last night. This morning came another one: TV ratings for the 85th celebration of Hollywood’s love affair with the movies were up over last year in the key 18- to 49-year-old demographic.

Early tallies for the show say it earned a 12.1 rating for that group, up more than from 3% from last year’s final 11.7 figure, according to a report in Broadcasting & Cable, citing preliminary figures from Nielsen. Entertainment Weekly notes that total ratings for the Oscars also probably rose over last year’s show hosted by Billy Chrystal. Final ratings, which may be different, will be released by Nielsen later today.

If these ratings hold, it will be a pleasant surprise for ABC and its corporate parent Walt Disney (DIS +0.22%).Some had wondered whether MacFarlane, whose TV shows and movies appeal largely to men, would turn off the mostly female Oscar audience. His song-and-dance number celebrating actresses who have shown their breasts on the silver screen may have offended some, but it was tame stuff by MacFarlane’s standards.

Best known as the creator of “Family Guy,” MacFarlane got mixed reviews for his performance.

Best Actress Academy Awards

Best Actress Academy Awards (Photo credit: cliff1066™)

For Broadside, an unpaid gig, I want an engaged, civil conversation with smart, global, interesting people. I have them! Yay, you!

For my books, I want readers of all ages simply open to new ideas, especially those interested in a new spin on old narratives — whether gun use or low-wage labor. Fortunately, I’ve found them as well.

When I write on business for The New York Times, I want readers to enjoy, think, argue, share. My stories are consistently the third most read and emailed of the entire Sunday paper. So, I’m pleased that my fairly careful targeting of the audience I seek is indeed out there.

But the pursuit of the Big Bucks, in many fields, means lowering the bar — of taste, execution, style, content, tone or intelligence.

It’s not a trade-off I’m willing to make.

How about you?

Who is your audience?

How do you try to win and keep and grow them?

Does it involve making trade-offs between your personal ethics and principles — and making a decent living?

Life after being Freshly Pressed: tips, advice — and welcome!

In behavior, blogging, books, culture, journalism, Media on December 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm
English: Marie-Claire Heureuse Félicité

English: Marie-Claire Heureuse Félicité (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whew.

More than 5,000 views (in three days) later, and 532 likes, life here at Broadside is back to normal. It’s fun to be featured, but the Niagara of comments is overwhelming if — which I do — you try to reply to each comment and visit everyone’s site who “likes” a post and/or who signs up to follow this blog.

For those new to Broadside, welcome! It’s a bit like throwing a party, happy to see old friends, and finding 300 people you’ve never met in your living room.

I blog every other day, sometimes a bit more often, on a variety of topics, often on writing. I am happy to hear dissenting views, but won’t tolerate rudeness, to me or others here.

If you want to argue a point, cool! But please do it with wit, facts and intelligence.

Insults are a direct route to the trash bin.

For those of you new here, I hope you’ll visit the blogs of some of the regular commenters here, like Nigel Featherstone, a writer in Australia; MrsFringe, a snappy mom in Manhattan, Michelle, a feisty, fun mom in Minneapolis; Rian, an expat American in Vancouver; the witty C, who I hope to meet for tea in London, Elizabeth, who traded Atlanta for Cornwall mid-life and the loquacious Rami, a student in Ohio.

A few thoughts on being FPed and how to get there, which Rami asked me about. I’ve been FPed six times, which is crazy, but flattering. The posts were about everything from why we need to thank one another, the lost art of conversation, how to write better to this most recent, about women’s obsession with their bodies.

I’m Caitlin Kelly, a Tarrytown, NY-based career journalist who writes for a living, and have been doing so since 1978, so blogging comes easily to me. I write frequently for The New York Times and have written two well-reviewed books. I hope you’ll buy them, and spread the word if you like them!

“Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” has sold well; it’s the story of my 27 months’ working in an upscale mall, and includes interviews with dozens of others nationwide, from the CFO of Costco to a woman who’s 51 making $7.25/hr — with a master’s degree and $60,000 worth of student debt.

Retail is the largest source of new jobs in this economy. Terrible jobs!

Here’s a link to both…

I’ve also sold personal essays to places like The New York Times and Marie Claire, so I have some experience writing for an audience about things personal. My second book, a memoir of working retail, is also filled with personal detail, interwoven with dozens of interviews.

So…how to get Freshly Pressed?

Be consistent

Blog on a regular schedule. People who start to enjoy your work want more! It’s frustrating to find a terrific blogger but never hear from them. People have short attention spans. Don’t let ‘em wander off.

Choose your tone

I think this is key. The blogs I linked to above each have a clear and consistent voice, some calm and meditative (Nigel and Elizabeth), some encouraging and upbeat (Rian), some funny and smart (C.) When FPs editors go looking for people to feature, they, too, need a good mix of voices. If yours isn’t clear and strong, your chances of being featured likely diminish.

Tags and categories!

Be sure you are adding these to every post.

Mix the personal with the universal

This is the toughest balance of all. Too personal is confessional and tedious. Too universal is too vague and no one can relate to it.

How about a call to action?

Several of my posts that have been FPed make clear I want readers to do something — Say thank-you! Start a conversation! Write better! They might not do any of them, but it’s clear what I want them to think about doing, at least.

What are people talking about?

Not the bloody Kardashians! But in a more general way, in the culture. It might be the U.S. Presidential election or Hurricane Sandy or unemployment or Christmas or Eid. People want to read something that’s current and meaningful to them.

Great headlines matter

Hard as hell to do well. Really hard. But the best posts draw in many readers with a funny, moving or quirky headline that make you want to read more.

Get angry!

One of the major changes I’ve seen recently in what’s featured on Freshly Pressed, (which I read every day), is their choice of material that’s more challenging and provocative, whether grief, divorce, politics. Women bloggers, especially, tend to be too polite. Say it loud and say it proud! What’s the point of blogging if you keep pulling your punches?

Read your competitors

This is pretty basic. If you really want your blog featured on FPed, you have to read at least some of what is chosen there to analyze what they’ve done so well. As a journalist and author, I read a tremendous amount, often envious of others’ clarity or turn of phrase. The only way to get better is to read the best.

Those of you who’ve been FPed — Rian, Michelle, others — what advice would you offer?

Your Book Is Out! Ten Tips For Promoting It

In behavior, books, business, work on July 5, 2011 at 11:30 am
Rollercoaster

Strap in and hang on! It's a wild ride ahead...Image by peve.de via Flickr

My second book, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” was published April 14, 2011 in the U.S. and April 19 in Canada.

It’s been full-on ever since!

I’ve done:

Radio interviews with shows in: D.C. (four, three of them national), St. Louis, Irvine, CA, Portland, Ore.; Vancouver, Winnipeg, New York, Chicago, Buffalo.

One TV show, a half-hour in Toronto on BNN with a retail analyst and professor of retail management.

Print interviews, including the Financial Times, New York Times and Associated Press and Marie-Claire to the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail and Canadian Press.

I’ve also spoken at six events in a month, with engagements lined up through October.


If you’re about to publish a book, these tips will help you through the fun, wearying, non-stop job of telling everyone about it:

Carry your book and/or its postcard everywhere. (And business cards.)

I mean everywhere. I’ve handed them out while airborne, while standing in line to check my baggage at an airport, at the hair salon, at my local framing shop…I missed the opportunity of a lifetime recently when I bumped into Anderson Cooper at a Toronto television station — and had nothing to hand him. Most people are delighted to meet an author. Having something tangible to refer to will help them remember to buy the book.

Stay well-groomed and dressed.

Many writers work alone at home, often in sloppy and comfy clothes. Once you’re out and in the public eye, you’re on! People who’ve never met an author are often thrilled to do so; in their eyes, (true!) your ability to get a book published is a huge achievement. Look and dress the part! Keep your hair cut (and color) in top shape, mani and pedi fresh,  so that surprise invitations to speak or do a media interview won’t panic you.

Splurge on a few new, confidence-building outfits. I spent a heart-stopping amount on some terrific clothes, and made sure they fit and were accessorized before the book was out.

When I received a surprise invitation to address the sales staff of Marie-Claire, a women’s fashion magazine, (while I was on the road with no time to go home from Toronto), I was fine, thanks to my new go-to gear. I felt totally comfortable in a room full of very chic listeners.

Ignore reviews.

OK, you won’t, but try.

Like me, “Malled”, has a strong voice and unvarnished opinions — and outspoken women, especially in the U.S., can really piss people off.

It’s already got 45 reviews on amazon, many  of them positive. But many of the negative ones attack me personally, calling me everything from princess to racist. It’s stressful to be name-called, and really annoying to know you just can’t reply. Unless a review is truly libelous or defamatory, it’s not worth it.

Book-sellers are your new best friends!

Visit as many bookstores as possible and autograph any copies of your book they have on hand.

If they have the time or interest, tell them a little about you or how the book came to be. If you’ve done, or are about to do, any local media coverage that might bring shoppers into their store, let them know so they can be sure to have copies on hand.

Say thank-you. Be gracious. They’re our ambassadors!

Stay rested, exercised, hydrated and well-fed.

Every event is a performance that demands focus, and emotional and intellectual energy to do well. Limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol. Keep a full cup of cool water at hand every time you speak.

Take some media or speech training to prepare.

I discovered a great coach on LinkedIn, a young woman named Christine Clapp, who prepped me for NPR’s popular Diane Rehm show — I would be on-air, before two million listeners, for an hour. She taught me some vocal and physical exercises to do before every interview or event and reviewed, and critiqued, the video of a keynote I gave last year at a retail conference. My confidence has improved immeasurably as a result.

It’s a roller-coaster.

Strap in and hang on! It’s a wild ride.

You’ll experience lovely highs: your book party, publication date, good reviews, positive media attention — and some tough lows: negative, even nasty reviews, people who just don’t get your point, events with an audience of one, events where no one buys the book, radio show call-in hecklers.

Enjoy the experience, but don’t take it to heart.

Stay on-message.

I did a Chicago radio show that had promised me four to eight minutes…and barely gave me one. Good thing I named the book’s full title in my first sentence! Decide the three key things you want to share with your audience and repeat them in every media interview.

Keep a cheat sheet handy.

I have a one-sheet, in 18-point type, of my major talking points. It’s easy to forget or get caught up in the moment, certainly on live radio.

While I was on the Diane Rehm show, a male caller sneered: “Why should I buy this book? What value does it have beyond being….entertainment?” I had my talking points beside the mike, made them, and got emails from listeners praising my poise.

Enjoy it all!

It’s easy to freak out — sales are too low, too slow, audiences too small or silent. Authors who have published, as I have both times, with a commercial house, face their very high expectations of fast, steady sales.

With 1,500 books published every day, we all face challenges getting ours noticed.

But…

It’s a thrill to see your book in the store, to get to know book-sellers and hear their thoughts, to know that total strangers all over the place are reading and loving it; to read the Google alerts letting you know that libraries are buying it; watching your little map at amazon’s Author Central tell you how many people bought it where — 47 in Chicago! 45 in Phoenix!

Bonus tip:

Always being your A-game, as you never know who’s in your audience or who they know.

Two recent examples: I went to lunch recently with my softball buddies of eight years, all old friends. Some new guy was there, 73. I said hi and introduced myself — he’s a producer for a major network TV news show and now wants a copy of the book. Yesterday I spoke at a local library event and the author sitting beside me is a freelance producer for CNN.

Even events that feel like a wash — like one where I drove 40 minutes each way, sold no books and did not get paid — had in its audience a friendly and helpful local journo who hooked me up for a great event, some serious library sales and three great ideas for events in her area — complete with names and contact numbers.

Now….what’s your next book about?

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