Promotional Posts

Promotional PostsThere’s nothing wrong with promoting things on blogs. Many authors do blog tours, request reviews, and exchange content. It’s a way to get the word out, and it’s usually free. That’s always a bonus for self-published authors who don’t have a lot of marketing experience, or a budget to put into it. It’s great to be able to help out other authors, but sometimes you run a risk with this type of promotion.

How? Let me enlighten you. Internet users are typically in-tune with what is promotional and what is not. It’s obvious when someone is promoting themselves, or promoting another. This is especially obvious if you are exchanging content. Say one person requests a review, and in return, they write a guest post for you. The chances of you being completely honest are taken down a few notches when you are receiving something in return.

If you hated the book, but are receiving content for your time, are you going to be blatantly honest, or are you going to at least try to give a good review, even if you’ve buttered it up a little? It’s an awkward situation—you can’t really feel good about yourself if you aren’t honest with your readers, but you also don’t want to hurt the author’s feelings. Of course, tact is always necessary, but the truth is worth much more.

If you’re like me, you’ll be stuck between a rock and a hard place, and it’ll hurt to get out of whatever you choose. I’m Canadian, we feel sorry about everything.

One way to navigate this kind of situation is to ensure that you tell your readers if you received something in exchange for your review or post. Transparency will at least give your fans a bit of understanding. A lot of the reviews I see are positive, but unless you only review books that you know you will like, chances are there will be a few that you didn’t like.

The second way is to just say no, in the best way possible. Unless you are going to be honest, saying no is the simplest way to keep your content free of promotion for others, honest, and based on what you want to write about. It’s not a bad thing to promote others, it’s just something that you need to be careful about. You have created a relationship with your readers, and it wouldn’t be sensible to jeopardize that.

The third way is to only agree to do a review after you’ve read the piece. Tell the author upfront, that unless you can give a positive review, you won’t publish it. They’ll likely be thankful for that, as well as understanding. Chances, are they aren’t looking for a bad review anyway.

There are other ways to do this, you just need to pick one that works for your blog and for your readers. If it fits with your content, and it’s something that you’re comfortable with, then go ahead. If it’s not, or you aren’t comfortable with the genre or subject, just say no. Be polite, be considerate, and be honest, but don’t do it just to be a nice person.

What do you do when asked for reviews? Have you ever said no before? Where do you draw the line with promotional posts?

The Magic of Books

The Magic of BooksAn interesting article was publishing recently, which spoke to the benefits of reading paper books. I highly suggest you read it, even if you prefer onscreen reading. In the article, it talks about how actually physically turning the pages of a book helps you to absorb the story, as well as giving you a sense of control—you can flip back and forth as you choose, fold pages, and even feel a sense of completion at the end of a page or chapter. Not things that you can generally do with e-books. I know that some allow you control, depending on your ereader, but not all.

This article got me thinking about the different ways that books can influence our minds, even in the simplest of forms. For me, they are a means to time travel, a comfort “food”, and landmarks of learning and experiences.

For example, when I open a book that I have read before, I am instantly taken back to the first time that I read it. The smells, the time of year, the emotions that I was feeling—all of it floods back and it helps me to put everything, not just the book, into perspective. Perhaps I was reading the book at a stressful time, and now, coming back to it, I am proud of how I improved my situation.

Then there are those times when I want to feel the way I did before. When I pick up a book that I was reading during a happy, comfortable time in my life and those feelings return to make me feel safe, happy, and whole. How every page will remind me of a home cooked meal at my grandparents, or a snowy night curled up in a pile of blankets. Sometimes I pick up those books not because I want to read the story again, but because I want to remember what it was like when I read that story.

Or how a realization in a book caused me to change the way that I thought, or taught me something I hadn’t known before. Tracing the arc of your thought process, and attributing that change or tangent to a book can be a phenomenal experience. It proves that authors who we have never met, and who we will never know, can influence our minds, and even our souls. Books go a lot deeper than just words on a page.

I have always read books in a way that they touch every one of my senses. I remember the feel of the cover and the pages, the small of the paper and ink, the taste of the sesame snaps I was eating while I read, the sound of the rain and snow outside of the window, and the bright sun or soft lamp that showed me the words. Each one brings something different to me, from an experience that I had before.

I know that the ebook debate will rage on for years, just as the serial comma debate, but I want to know where you stand, and if that article set the gears in your mind to working.

Do you read ebooks or paper books, and do you find that you experience them differently? Are you an “all senses” reader, and if so, do you still find that you get the same experience from onscreen reading?

My Meager Writing Resolutions

FireworksWhenever someone asks me what I do, I feel so strange when I reply that I am a writer. That I can say it and have it be true. Not part time, not aspiring, but as my career. It’s something I have worked for, since I was very young, and I never once let go of it—yet.

It’s not quite as I’d like, mind you, but I’ll get there.

Since it’s a new year, and everyone else seems to be doing it, I thought I would make a couple of writing resolutions for myself to help me to keep pushing, since that is sometimes the hardest part. You are probably aware that I don’t set writing goals for myself necessarily, so if you find my resolutions a bit odd, you needn’t be surprised.

1) Purchase a new book every month. I used to do this a few years ago. Sometimes I would even get one every paycheck. I have always believed that reading is a huge part of writing, and that to really become a revered writer, you first need to conquer the subtle art of reading. You need to learn to savor the simplest of words. You need to be able to take simple meanings from the longest passages.

I don’t want to read more, because I read an awful lot already, but I do want to read more new material. I plan to start hacking away at my TBR list by actually buying some of the books on it.

2) Finish writing that one story I’ve been working on. I have a short story that I have been writing for months. I haven’t been actively working on it. I add a bit, leave it for a month or two, then add a bit more. The story called to me long ago, I just haven’t finished pouring it onto paper (or a screen) yet. After I finish it, I suppose I will try to submit it to a small publisher of magazines.

I may also try to find the right home for a story that has received a couple of rejections. It’s a good piece, it just hasn’t found its fit yet. But, it will.

3) Do something nice for other writers. I try to provide good advice and conversation on this blog, but I’d like to do something more. Whether that means offering to edit a few shorts that have been rejected, or maybe even publishing a few on my blog so that they are at least published somewhere, I don’t know yet. Actually, if you have suggestions as to how I could really thank my readers and dedicated conversationalists, feel free to let me know.

And, to be honest, that’s about all I’ve got. I could say that I want to start jotting down that novel I’ve been dreaming about, or I could say that this year I will write an outrageous number of words, but that’s just not how I work. I’ll likely do what I want to, when the time calls to me, and do it better than I would had I forced myself.

What about you? Any writing resolutions this year, or are you more like me? Did you make any resolutions that you gave up on already?