"How to attract readers to your website", Part II: Barack responds

A few days ago, in a post entitled "How to attract readers to your website, I referred to one of my tweeps by a pseudonym. Folks don't always like it to be widely known that they are asking advice; our culture sometimes fosters the lunatic view that asking for help is akin to clubbing baby seals, or something.

Regardless, before I posted the advice and suggestions which I'd sent as a string of DMs, I first sent the entire blog post (HTML and all) to Barack, with an invitation to write a guest post in response. Part of the deal was that I would post it unedited for content.

I'm now prepared to reveal "Barack"'s true identity as...

Janet Aldrich, aka tec4_cleveland on Twitter.

As promised, here is Janet's response to my advice:
This weekend, I watched my SiteMeter on my writing blog not move much (and after I wrote a Friday Flash story I was pretty happy with). It was particularly frustrating because I knocked out an ok haiku for Three Word Wednesday and got quite a few hits and comments.

In desperation, I sought out Tony Noland, who had been kind enough to Follow me on Twitter and who is a ‘friend’ on Facebook. I’d seen that Tony had success with getting people to read and comment on his work. I went ‘a-supplicating’ for advice, ideas, suggestion, even pity. I’m not proud.

Tony responded by sending me a series of DMs on Twitter explaining some of what he felt helped drive traffic to his site. His messages boiled down to expertise, duration and familiarity. There’s not much I can do about that in the short term; I’ve only begun writing again after a VERY long hiatus, just discovered #FridayFlash a little over a month ago and haven’t had the opportunity to get to know people in the writing community – although that has begun to change.

When it came down to writing and getting people to read my stuff, Tony gave me some good advice that would apply to any writer’s situation, namely to be personable in social media settings, to be sure that the product I was posting was good and to keep working to improve as a writer. I think his comments made me realize one of my weaknesses – maybe common to everyone who writes? – I’m not sure if I’m a good judge of the quality of my product. Perhaps that’s something time will cure as well, but I wonder how to get better if I’m not sure I’m any good in the first place.

I also speculate sometimes how much my personality will hinder me if I keep on writing well enough to try to publish. I’m not altogether comfortable with the self-promotion that Tony, for one, is good at and seems to take in his stride. Somewhere over the last 20 years, I turned into the person at the party who’s over in the corner scanning the bookshelves and having a conversation with the host’s cat. I can only do so much before I wind up saying “Heck with it. I’m not going to beg.” I think it’s why I was never any good at selling Tupperware.

I do want to thank Tony for answering my cry for help. That’s one thing I’ve discovered about the people I’ve met in the writing community as time goes by; many of you have offered help, advice and support when called upon, and I’m grateful for every follow, Tweet, FB post and comment on my blog and website. I’m not sure what I have to offer in return, but if nothing else, I’m a good listener. Just ask my cat.

You're quite welcome, Janet. I'm planning on responding in more detail to some of the topics you raise. Look for it in future blog posts here.

What do you think, folks? Aside from "practice, practice, practice", any other words of advice or encouragement?

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  1. I know what you mean about self-promotion, Janet. I was really uncomfortable with it when I started blogging and writing on a regular basis, but I've come to learn that it is how you get your name out there, and once that happens, readers happen. People will start to recognize your name as a writer they enjoy.

    For example, I know your name now, and when #fridayflash time comes around, and I am pressed for time and reading the writers I've come to know, I'll give your story a read.

  2. I learned very early on not to worry about the number of readers that come to my site. It takes care of itself over time.

  3. I think self promotion is fine as long as it is folded into a solid Twitter/Facebook stream of conversation. When I start seeing little more than "Read my post: Link Here", I begin to ignore updates from that person (if not unfollowing them all together).

  4. Tony - thanks for introducing me to Janet. I've just gone over to her site and I'm now a fan.

    Janet - what just happened above was more than just "self-promotion". I don't like that phrase, it always comes across as "selling ourselves" in quite a vulgar manner. There is a lot of stress in social networking for us to constantly be pushing ourselves in other people's faces to get their attention. It doesn't need to be like that. Simply be yourself, interact, and continue to write. Most importantly, don't let the promotion interfere with the writing.

    I've become a fan of Tony's work not because he is constantly trying to sell me his "product", but because he is genuine in his online presence. I sincerely hope I can do the same with you and your writing.

  5. Well, at least you go to the party and talk to the cat...I won't even go to the party anymore!
    Tony is very good at self-promotion and I'm trying to learn that from him and others.

  6. @Laurita: Self-promotion is one of those things that you have to do. FWIW, I chose not to "hold my nose" and do it, because I figured people are smart and perceptive enough to sense disdain behind the rah-rah-rah. I decided to embrace it as an opportunity to tell people about some thing they might like to see.

    @John: On a long time scale, readership might develop on its own. However, for any of us, some promotion and stimulus will speed that along. I can't afford a publicist, so I have to ring the bell myself.

    @Walt: I agree completely. If all I do is shout, "Look at me! Look at my stuff!", that's not going to be effective self-promotion in the long run, because people will ignore me for the spammer I am.

    @Chris: And I'm happy to have you here! I'm around on Twitter, etc., because it's fun and I enjoy it, not just because it's a place for me to shill my stuff. Ideally, people will come back to read my stories, even if any one particular piece didn't work for them. I guess I'd call that loyalty, or fandom, or something.

    @Laura: Believe it or not, I used to be the guy checking out the books, the cat, the punch bowl... anything but the people. Finally, I asked myself why I was going to the parties in the first place: to interact with people. I realized I wasn't doing that, so I took a deep breath and made it happen. It didn't (and doesn't) come naturally, but it's important.


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