What Have You Outgrown?

You can hardly swing a computer keyboard around (well, okay, I don’t recommend swinging a computer keyboard around, but anyway…) without seeing a chance to take a workshop on how to utilize social media. Taking a workshop on social media is a great idea. I’m a huge advocate of using social media for fun, to connect, and, while you’re at it, to let people know you’re a great writer.

But I was hardly the first one to the gate, or even out of the gate. Many were blogging, tweeting, on Facebook, and doing Google searches (and by the way, you perform a Google search — you don’t Google anything) long before I did.

And, like hanging on to an old pair of shoes way too long (It may be time to relegate those reliable running shoes to “yard work” status?) some columnists have outgrown the outlets where they are contributing.

If you are still writing for and about a genre you are no longer involved in, I’m talking to you. Or a topic that no longer has any meaning or place in your life, I’m talking to you. Sure, you may not want to disappoint your friends. But if you stop, you aren’t cutting them out of your life. Just their blog. And if they quit talking to you because you stop writing for their blog, they’re not your friends. (Yes, I sound like your mother. Call her. But only after you finish reading this blog.)

Why should you stop? Because by writing about topics and genres that don’t have anything to do with books you aren’t writing today, you are giving your current readers the wrong impression. Say you used to write Regencies. Now you’re writing sassy contemporaries. You need to ditch the Darling Mr. Darcy blog and write all about Saucy Suzy. Capture the readers you’re currently pursuing. Because  your writing has changed. And so must your image.

But what about your backlist? It’s still online.

Fine. Your old blogs are likely to be online, too. But your primary focus should be on your current publisher and your current work. The present is a gift. Open it.

Your turn:

Have you evaluated your online presence lately? Is it up to date?

How is your electronic housekeeping going?

What do you need to add to stay up to date?


26 Responses to What Have You Outgrown?

  1. Lisa Evola July 23, 2015 at 5:28 am #

    So….my question is, if that is the case and change is needed, how do you go about that? Do you simply fall off the map, close the blog and open one up somewhere else and start completely over? That transition can be a difficult one…..

    • Tamela Hancock Murray July 23, 2015 at 5:49 am #

      Lisa, that’s a great question. I doubt the answer is the same for everyone. You can start over, telling your readers you’re moving and why, or you can tell your current readers you are refocusing your blog and stay there, but change the look of the blog. If you need to close down because your change is radical, I still recommend recommend asking your IT person to be sure your old address will direct to your new blog so you don’t lose crossover audience.

      • Lisa Evola July 23, 2015 at 5:54 am #

        Thanks Tamela! I have considered moves of this nature, not sure I am ready at this point, but I know it is coming. It is just hard when you have spent so much time and energy building something only to abandon it in favor of something more personal. Thank you for your perspective! Lisa

        • Tamela Hancock Murray July 23, 2015 at 6:13 am #

          Lisa, I am not a blogging expert but I decided to take a moment to visit your blog. It is gorgeous and I can see why it would be difficult for you to give it up. I do notice that you list nine contributors. I also notice your name is on top, which probably means you are doing a lot of the often tedious and time-consuming admin work, too. If so, it may be hard to hand off the blog to one of the other contributors (especially if you are also the one paying a host, etc.). But, with that many people involved, you may be able to pass the baton so the blog can keep running and not be lost. Or, see if you can somehow cut down your duties so much that you have carved out enough time for your new blog.

          If you aren’t able to work out anything with your friends and you “own” the site, I recommend saying, “Goodbye” on the blog, redecorating, and then make a big ta-do about saying, “Hello,” a month or so later with the new blog. That way, you should retain all of your followers. If you are going more personal, I can’t imagine many would drop off when the new blog opens.

          I hope this is helpful. I’m sure much of this is a repeat of different thoughts you’ve already had. And of course, I’m forming an opinion only by looking at the blog and not knowing any of the people involved so nothing I have to say may be workable for you. But since you have questions, I thought it was worth the time to offer my additional thoughts.

          I’m certain whatever you decide, you will be successful.

          • Lisa Evola July 23, 2015 at 9:02 am #

            O Tamela, you are so sweet to take the time to visit the site. Yes, it is mine. It started out as just me writing what I felt God had put on my heart…over the next 4 years I met and added other sweet souls who felt compelled as I did to share, and the ministry was born. It was humming along where each writer would only be required to write 1 or 2 posts each month, and everyone was faithful with the commitment. But over the last few months, the writers have backed out because of other commitments, promising to return in a few months. I totally understand busy….I own a business as well as write and am an artist as well…crazy land! but I find that as they drop, I have to fill the space, and the time to work on my own projects becomes more and more limited. I will take your advice and see if someone would be willing to take the reigns. If not, that restructuring that you mentioned may just become a necessity. I do want to give the other writers the opportunity to continue with our vision, so I suppose if it is God’s will, someone will step up! Thank you again for taking the time to soothe a weary soul!!

  2. Jackie Layton July 23, 2015 at 5:46 am #

    Hi Tamela,

    Last year I left a blog I helped start with a friend because I shifted my genre. The other ladies and I had become good friends, and they were gracious. We are still friends, and I miss them.

    One upside for me is the time I’ve gained. I’ve narrowed the scope of my other blog so I’m also more focused. (Dan Balow’s posts helped me with that.)

    I can only do so much with the time I’ve been given, and scaling down to one blog has helped.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 23, 2015 at 6:26 am #

    Well, to start with the heading picture…he who outgrows a teddy bear is a very sad person indeed.

    My online presence is…unfortunately…quite current. Given what I’m writing about on my blog at the moment, I wish it were not. But life is that which it is, and one does that which one can. (I’m on installment 32 of a series on terminal illness in marriage, focusing on the caregiving spouse.)

    It does fit with the theme of my blog and my writing – contemporary Christian relationships / romance / marriage. It’s not an area I imagine I’ll be leaving any time soon, but it does change a bit in focus and style, through my own experiences (see above!), comments readers leave, and that which I read on other blogs (not always in the same area).

    To paraphrase Tennyson, all that I meet becomes a part of me, and I’m comfortable with both reaching forward into new areas, and returning to things I may have left behind.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray July 23, 2015 at 1:33 pm #

      Andrew, I haven’t outgrown teddy bears. I love them! My husband and I even gave his 89-year-old father one before he passed away a couple of years ago.

      Thank you for consistently stopping by and commenting on the blog. I am still praying for you.

  4. Beverly Brooks July 23, 2015 at 6:33 am #

    I do have a piece to add to my website- thanks for the push!
    I am struggling to balance writing time and the social media aspect of reaching out but sounds like I’m in good company.

    This is definitely not my strong suit so I appreciate the blogs the agency does to help.

  5. Laura Bennet July 23, 2015 at 7:44 am #

    Thank you! This confirms a move I am in the process of =)

  6. Carol Ashby July 23, 2015 at 7:47 am #

    A thought-provoking post, as usual. You made a comment that intrigues me. What do you mean by making a blog more personal? Andrew’s blog is extremely personal and truly compelling, but most of us have relatively mundane existences. While my box turtle, Leopold, is a fascinating part of my personal life, I doubt he would interest many enough for them to return on a regular basis for tales of his exploits, and I have only so many favorite green chile recipes to share. Besides, my husband does most of the cooking, so the best recipes aren’t mine personally.

    I am gearing up to launch an author website and blog, so this is a pressing issue for me. I’m writing historical/historical romance with a major plot arc following the spiritual transformation of a lead character that allows the romance to reach a positive conclusion. I have a missionary heart with my personal focus on sharing Jesus with the people in my daily life, like my characters do. (Write what you know!) I am visualizing a site with historical, philosophical, and theological content that makes a visit worthwhile for more than just getting to know me as a person and romance author. The blog will be one part, but not all.

    What do you define as a personal blog for an author? What do you suggest as specific types of content for an author who is still unpublished? Any recommendations of a few author blogs/websites with differing styles that you think are exceptionally good?

    • Jenni Brummett July 23, 2015 at 1:46 pm #

      Carol, I echo your question about how to blog in a way that remains pertinent with your pre-published novel or novels. One bit of advice I’ve found helpful is to limit the breadth of your focus on the blog. This prevents a scattered feel. It also helps with brand recognition for your books.

      I believe blogs tend to lean more toward personal or thematic.

      • Tamela Hancock Murray July 23, 2015 at 2:23 pm #

        Jenni, yes, this is good advice, particularly for the published author. However, before an author is published, he or she may want to be cautious until an editor offers a contract. For example, don’t go all in on Regency, only to find out that the editor likes your Prairie romance. This is just a thought.

        But yes, if you know you’re writing historical, no need to jump to contemporary, too. Good advice.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray July 23, 2015 at 2:19 pm #

      Carol, I think you have great ideas, especially for an unpublished author. And I believe you can transition well once you are published.

      You are right about most people’s lives as far as providing constant material for a blog. Frankly, mine doesn’t, either. That’s why you don’t see me posting a lot of personal updates on Facebook. I love my life, but I don’t think my average day would be entertaining to others. And frankly, I don’t want it to be.

      I also think it’s hard to define what a good blog is. What is appealing to me may not be appealing to someone else. But as for Christian authors, Kim Vogel Sawyer does a fantastic job visually, she is consistent, and her quality is high. You will also benefit from looking at Angie Dicken’s site, because she has kicked off a new campaign to build her platform. Stop by and look at Lynette Eason’s site, and also Sarah Ladd’s. They are different from each other and will show you two different but wonderful approaches, with two genres, though. Betsy St. Amant has a great site and also an excellent blog. Well, now I’m in danger of naming all of my wonderful authors, because I love them all! Do stop by our author list and click on their names. That should take you to their various sites. Since you are getting ready to launch, I believe this will be well worth your time because all four of us represent many of the top names in the business.

      Whatever you do, make sure your site reflects your personality and style. It sounds as though you will. My web site, http://www.tamelahancock.com, was put together by a family friend who knows me pretty well, and its rich red theme reflects my personality. I don’t use the site to promote anything, just as a placeholder to protect my name online and to let people know who I am, plus to direct them here. But it does give you an idea about who I am. However, I would go with something entirely different if I were an author actively promoting books from the site. But again, it is a reflection of my personality and I think you’ll want to reflect your personality with yours.

      Let me know when you unveil your “baby” because I’d love to see it!

      • Carol July 23, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

        This is tremendously helpful. Thanks!

  7. Angela Breidenbach July 23, 2015 at 9:37 am #

    You’re so right! I’m going to set a date in August to analyze my online stuff again. I have so many social media accounts that I need to make sure they’re all there and on the right topics 🙂

  8. Wendy L Macdonald July 23, 2015 at 10:22 am #

    Tamela, I’ve been working on a blog move to my own domain rather than a free blog. My first step is done (I have a domain name) and I’ll be transporting my old blog posts and follower list to the new one in September, if the tech part goes well.

    But I’m uncertain as to what an inspirational mystery romance writer’s blog should focus on (currently I’m just being me) . My manuscripts include protagonists who love God, nature, gardens, character homes, and family. And I focus on recovery and relationship issues in the plots. Do you have an inspirational mystery romance writer’s blog you’d recommend as an example of how to brand yourself appropriately? (Does anyone else?)

    For now, I’ll continue being me, as it’s what I do best—plus focus on those things I mentioned.
    Blessings ~ Wendy

    • Tamela Hancock Murray July 23, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

      Wendy, probably the closest one I can recommend is Lisa Carter. http://lisacarterauthor.com/ And she’s a great one, because she just got Top Pick and 4.5 stars in Romantic Times!

      • Wendy L Macdonald July 23, 2015 at 2:56 pm #

        Thank you, Tamela. I love Lisa’s landing page. It’s a wonderful example I can relate to. I’m visually oriented in the way I create and learn, so I appreciate this link. 🙂

  9. Nick Kording July 23, 2015 at 10:37 am #

    I feel like social media – building the platform – is a never-ending battle. I wanted to write, not cultivate a following, tribe or whatever the current catchphrase is for potential buyers. I read that the numbers of followers who translate into book or product buyers is ridiculously low. I wonder if this is something agents/publishers look at. I think something less than 30% of followers/subscribers/etc. actually buy someone’s book.

    While I’ve had Twitter for a while, I’ve only recently started using it. I’ve heard Twitter and Instagram are preferred over Facebook now. Would love to hear your thoughts on the details of all this… though, I agree, everyone seems to have something to say.

    • Wendy L Macdonald July 23, 2015 at 10:47 am #

      Nick, Seth Godin talks about the importance of a tribe, and I think he may have said it’s not about size so much as quality. If 30% of followers who buy the book are truly part of your tribe, then they’ll tell their friends who may also tell their friends… I think 30% is well worth the effort.

      I love my followers—and they know it. Love your tribe, and they’ll love you back.

      Blessings ~ Wendy

    • Tamela Hancock Murray July 23, 2015 at 2:39 pm #

      Nick, I agree with Wendy. And I would say, have fun! Publishers want to see that authors are connecting with their audience. Yes, I can have 100,000 Twitter followers. But if I am writing about techniques in dentistry and only 1,000 of those followers are dentists, I’ll be lucky if 100 of those buy my book. So using that made-up example, having random followers does very little.

      Yet social media is valuable, and having a lot of quality followers is valuable. Here’s why. As in all businesses, it’s about relationships. To borrow an example from another field, television — my mother-in-law used to watch Regis and Kathie Lee every day. She felt they were her friends. Were they? No. But she FELT that they were. This is the way social media works with authors and their audience. Authors are making a connection. So when readers see the name of an author they have come to care about, they may buy that book over the one by an author they don’t care about. That is why we want to connect with fans over social media.

      I wrote books for many years, and I cared about my readers. I answered my fan mail. Barbour Publishing repacks my work today. I still care about those readers. Yes, social media does offer a type of connection. I’m glad it does because it helps authors serve readers better. This is another reason to be glad we have social media today.

  10. Jenni Brummett July 23, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

    Earlier this year I decided to take a more thematic angle on my blog. As a writer of historical fiction this move has helped me hone in on the things my prospective reader enjoys.

    My focus is the home in history, art, and literature. I also unpack the way houses imbed themselves in our memories and imagination. This seemed like a natural fit for me since I have a background in historic preservation and adore architecture. Often the house in my novels is a character in and of itself.

    On the blog I’ve hosted a few artists who use the home as inspiration. Some of my friends have visited to share about homes or neighborhoods they hold dear. I feature architectural styles in the area I write about (which also happens to be where I live). Then I share these specific posts on Facebook groups I’m a part of (San Francisco History, California History, etc.).

    A few fun giveaways I’ve done have included a quiz with pictures of storybook houses. Whoever receives the most points, after guessing the author, illustrator and title, wins a prize. My daughter’s collection of picture books come in handy here. 😉

    All this to say, friends and followers on social media now associate historic architecture with me. They send me pictures or articles that pertain to this theme. The topic of the home provides an umbrella under which so many ideas proliferate.

  11. Iola July 23, 2015 at 4:54 pm #

    Yes, times change and we have to change with them. Merriam-Webster’s accepts google (small l) as a transitive verb meaning to perform an internet search using the Google search engine.

    MW isn’t my personal favourite dictionary (as illustrated by the way I spell “favourite”), which leads me to wonder … are you a closet Brit?

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