is for April, and it will come as no surprise that the A to Z April Challenge is … a challenge held in April using the letters of the alphabet, from A to Z.
Is it free? Yes.
Is it fun? Yes.
Is it worthwhile? Yes.
Have I ever completed the challenge? Yes.
What is it all about – really?
Essentially, it’s about increasing your presence in the blogosphere. If you have a blog and you feel you don’t have many followers it can be down to several factors.
– You might have an interesting theme in your regular posts, but may not be relating it in an interesting way.
– You may find yourself wondering how to make your topics attract followers.
– You might even be new to the blogging idea and the best way to learn what works is to visit others – and comment.
– Make an effort to become a part of the international blogging scene.
I’ve provided a link if you click on the logo towards the end of this post. Or you can check out the details here: A to Z April Challenge 2016. You might well fancy attempting to complete the challenge this year. If you make the effort to try it, you have nothing to lose, and a lot to gain.
I heard about the A to Z April Challenge from writer, reviewer and prolific blogger, Damyanti Biswas.
I enrolled on the 2014 challenge and I chose to use the topic of writing as my theme for the month. As always, I had several projects on the go simultaneously, so fitting in a daily post and then reading and commenting on at least five other posts became a real challenge.
Okay, having said all of the above regarding my first attempt, I did enjoy my efforts and those of the other bloggers. My followers increased and I still visit some of those bloggers I met in 2014 during the challenge.
I admit, I am a writer who blogs, as opposed to a blogger who writes.
What does that mean?
It means that for me, blogging is a means to an end. It is an author platform.
For many, blogging becomes a social activity and in several years experience of the international community, I’ve found insights into many areas.
What did I do in my challenge posts in 2014?
As an example, I’ll provide the link here for my final post of 2014:
Do I have any advice for those are considering the challenge for 2016?
Yes. I’d have two pieces of advice, apart from suggesting you try the challenge.
1. Don’t use the first topic / theme that comes to mind. List about five things you’re really interested in, and then choose one.
2. Set up a file with the letters of the alphabet, and build a small catalogue of posts in preparation. It’s even better if you can prepare your entire month (26 posts) in advance. All you have to do then is either edit them or have a quick look before posting.
Why not check it out by clicking on the logo to the left, or if you like, I’ll happily field early questions. Better still is to contact Damyantidirectly.
Thank you for reading … and maybe we’ll see each other out there in April.
It might not appear so at first, but ‘refreshing’ items for a writer is a wide and varied area of responsibility. Refreshment is important – because it is for the writer’s personal benefit.
Let’s make a list …
1. Project list
2. Website, blog, and social networks
3. Personal bio and author photo
4. Book covers
5. Book supplementary content
6. Book pricing
8. To be Read (TBR)
9. Work in Progress (WIP)
10. Take regular breaks
1. Project List
As a priority, we must strive to maintain separate writing and domestic ‘to do’ lists.
A good way to deal with this is to differentiate between domestic and writing.
Refer to domestic ‘tasks,’ but writing ‘projects’.
In the domestic tasks list add in a heading – Writing Projects. To the right is an example of my present Writing Projects.
It’s a good reminder to treat it as a different part of the writer’s life.
2. Website, blog and social networks
In my articles I use my projects to give examples, and this is a recurring project for me.
I write an update for my author website every week. I write an update for my secondary website every month, and I write a blog post when a relevant topic comes to mind – like this one.
Remember if you have an Amazon Author Page – update it too. If you haven’t got one – get one organised.
In the last few weeks I’ve completely overhauled my secondary website and it’s had a few compliments. I’ve also given this blog a facelift and consolidated the main menu.
Here are items that many writers have issues producing. My suggestion would be to read up on the topic, and compose a bio. I have different bios, because I’ve found it useful. One is 50 words – when brevity is required, another is 100 words, which is sufficient to create a good personal writing history.
In my opinion, the bio for a website can afford to be longer, depending on the purpose of the website. A key point to keep in mind is – your writing bio should be clearly about your writing history and accomplishments – it is not about your granny, your rabbits, or your last holiday abroad.
If you’d like your writing to be taken seriously, take your profile and author photo seriously. My bios are both less than one month old, and my present photo is three months old. I don’t go to the extent of a ‘professional’ photo, but I trawl through several recent shots to get the best I can – and in cases like mine, that can be a task!
Practise your bio and give yourself a word limit. Produce two, three, or four so they can be adapted for a variety of purposes. If in doubt, send a copy to a fellow author you trust and ask for an opinion.
4. Book Covers
If you have a title out there which isn’t performing well, but has had a handful of good reviews, the lack of performance could be down to many things, among which is the cover – if you have any doubt – change it.
A few days ago I changed the cover of one of my books because it was stagnating. Within 48 hours of changing the cover, it sold again.
5. Book Supplementary Info
In the back pages of all of my eBooks I have supplementary information which includes: a short bio, and other titles.
We must ensure our bio is updated in all of our work as we produce another title, and we must ensure our latest title has all the others at the back.
Why at the back?
If you’ve published an eBook it will give more of a sample for prospective readers (customers), and the information is irrelevant if the prospective reader doesn’t buy.
This is marketing by stealth.
6. Book Pricing
Yes, we all love writing and we’d do it even if we weren’t paid. The flip-side of the coin is – while we can be paid, we don’t want to lose out. I abide by certain simple rules.
I have several titles out there covering a variety of genre and types of writing. I don’t consider myself a household name, so I price my work accordingly. Don’t set a high price on your first book, and don’t think a few five star reviews means you’ve made it and you can ask whatever price you like.
Keep in mind, there are thousands of e-Reader users who only download books which are free, or up to a certain price. We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘everyone has their price’, and it’s no different in the world of eBooks.
A few days ago I amended my pricing across the entire range of my catalogue. Always remember, it’s better to get 100 shares of a low price – rather than 2 shares of a high price.
Whether you made them or somebody else made them – keep them. At one end of the scale an ‘appointment’ might be the date you’ve set to promote a book with a low price. At the other end of the scale an ‘appointment’ might be a phone call or meeting with somebody who can influence your success – or failure.
8. To be Read (TBR)
I’m well known for my methodical approach.
On my Kindle I have a TBR – 1, and a TBR – 2. Apart from those, I have a TBR diary/journal which has all of the TBR 1 and 2 listed with genre and author name.
TBR – 1 is my priority list for reading and reviewing. TBR – 2 is my list of titles which I’ve collected as a matter of interest, but I’m in no hurry to get to them. Using my TBR journal I can decide which genre to switch to after a recent read. I tend never to read and review the same genre twice in succession.
9. Work in Progress (WIP)
When did you last look at your list of WIP?
I know there are many, who do as I do and work on various projects simultaneously, but we must set ourselves a time to remind ourselves what else we have and any ‘due dates’.
10. Take regular breaks
Yes, obvious isn’t it – but do you do it?
I work in retail part-time, so many of my days are hard-working, writing days. I enjoy a coffee while I work, but I am disciplined regarding breaks.
On an average writing day: By 7am – I’m already writing. By 10am – I’ve taken out an hour to deal with my first pass on social networking, so I take a 15-minute break (away from my writing). At 12noon – it’s lunch-time (for one hour).
At 3pm – I take my 15-minute afternoon break, and if my head isn’t in another world, I make a second pass on my social networking. At around 6 – 6.30pm I stop for dinner. I make a third pass on social networking in the evening.
Yes, that is the perfect day, but there are anomalies. I have the occasional coffee while I work. I will invariably come back to writing for an hour or two in the late evening, and I occasionally use a ‘break’ to catch up with social networking.
So my friends there we have it – we all need some refreshment in our writing lives.
I hope I’ve reminded, educated or inspired in some small way. As always, comments are appreciated and all will be acknowledged.
An Indian History of the American West –by Dee Brown
‘I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream …’
Black Elk (1863 – 1950), of the Sioux
The book is factual, and touched me on several levels. The statement may sound poetic, but it is the way in which great medicine men like Nicholas Black Elk spoke. It not only summarises one scene, but gives an insight to the atrocities performed by the multi-national invaders upon North America.
An excerpt from my Goodreads review:
‘Apart from the callousness and cruelty visited upon the original caretakers of the North American continent I feel one of the most sickening thoughts is that it happened so recently – some of it in the late 19th Century.
I cannot recommend Dee Brown’s insights too highly. It should be compulsory reading for all American citizens – they owe that much to the memory of the Indians. Those same citizens should also educate their offspring to the deeds of their ‘brave’ forefathers.
An optional title for this book might be ‘Man’s Inhumanity to Man’.’
And now, in total contrast:
My Work in Progress is an erotic novel – publication 1st Sept 2015.
Give and Take (an excerpt from Chapter 2 – The White Room)
Nick sat up in bed, experiencing déjà vu as he lifted the glass. He sipped the water and let the fresh liquid wash around his mouth before he swallowed. As he placed the glass down again, the bedroom door opened.
“I see you’ve finally come back to life.” The visitor was an attractive woman. “My name is Heather.”
Nick leaned back on his elbows. His eyes opened wide, and his lips parted. Heather was in her mid-thirties, and at least 6ft tall. When she turned to close the door, her long brunette ponytail swished from side to side. A narrow band of black skirt showed below the hem of her short white lab coat. Thin black seams ran straight down the back of perfect legs and disappeared into shining black high heels.
Nick acted like a startled rabbit in headlights when his visitor turned to face him. High-arched eyebrows, hazel eyes, and long dark lashes gave Nick a warm feeling inside. When she spoke again, it brought Nick’s gaze to her sensuous ruby lips.
“It’s time to shed some light on the situation,” Heather said, and strode to the nearest set of drapes. She gave a gentle tug on a concealed cord, and the heavy material parted silently to let in natural light. Heather walked around the bed to the other drapes. As she walked, her unbuttoned coat opened, to show a white blouse and short black skirt.
Nick was feasting his eyes on Heather’s attributes when she reached the second window. She tugged a concealed cord, and the room became even brighter. Nick slid down under the duvet to lie flat on his back. He was aware of familiar stirrings as he devoured this stunning woman with his hungry eyes.
“Do you like what you see so far?” Heather asked as she stepped away from the window. She placed her hands on her hips which pulled the white coat back. There was a clearer view of the well-filled blouse, the top two buttons of which were undone.
“Well?” Heather asked, and inclined her head as she took a step forward.
“Yes,” Nick said and swallowed hard. “I like it a lot.” As usual with Nick, his head was ruled by a pulse further down his body – much further down than his heart.
“Good,” Heather said, as she stepped to the edge of the bed, reached down and pulled back the duvet. When Nick lay uncovered from head to toe, Heather looked down at his arousal and smiled.
Nick had been staring at the steady rise and fall, of Heather’s chest. He gasped at the sudden revelation of his condition. In the short time, he’d been in these strange circumstances it had never occurred to him that he was completely naked. He turned from admiring the statuesque woman and looked down at himself.
“Oh, Nick,” Heather said. “What have you been thinking? You’re blushing too.”
“How do you know my name?” he muttered as he reached to pull the duvet back up. “Where am I?” The thoughts that should have occurred to him earlier were surfacing. “Where is Kirsten?”
Heather leaned on the edge of the bed with both hands and looked into Nick’s wide-eyed stare. She knew what she was doing, and a smile played on her lips. Nick’s gaze fell to the improved view of Heather’s cleavage.
“Later, Nick,” she breathed. “First, you get freshened up and dressed. We’ll talk after you’ve eaten.” She rose to her full height and strode to the door, where she stopped and looked back over her shoulder. “If you don’t want to miss breakfast, you’ve got 20 minutes.”
Word count 900 : NCCO
Thank you to all who’ve made the effort to reach this far, and I wish the best of luck to all the participants in the WEP Competition – August 2015
At first glance, it reminded me of an electronic chain letter, but without the associated pressures – it’s an e-social idea, it’s fun and does a marketing job for all who participate.
It’s an award given in the blogging community, to celebrate new blogs, or blogs with a follower count of less than 200. I found out today that the ‘follower’ figure is meant to be 1,000 – but that includes Twitter.
It’s also to encourage new people to blog and join in the blogging community as a whole. Our social blogging world, which is colloquially known as the ‘blogosphere’.
The word Liebsteris a German word that doesn’t translate literally, but more or less means: kindest, nicest, lovely, dearest, sweetest, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing and welcome. I’ve listed the connotations that were passed on to me, and I’m delighted to have been nominated.
The rules, should you choose to accept the award from the person that nominated you:
1. Link back to the blog that nominated you. In my case Princess of Dragons, and with that link go my thanks.
2. Answer questions that your nominator has set their nominees.
3. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
4. Nominate 5-11 blogs that have less than 200 followers to receive this award.
5.Create 11 questions for your nominees to answer.
6.Contact your nominees and let them know you have nominated them!
I had never heard of the A to Z Challenge before so this was my first attempt.
I got a lot out of it, but as anyone who followed me would know; I put a lot into it. To make it clear I’ll list in the same fashion I used for my posts. It’s a method that provides clarity. I said … it’s a method that provides clarity.
1. I enjoyed it, although at times it was hard work. I started by following the ‘suggested’ 5 blogs, but through interest I ended up following 20.
2. I got every post out on time on the correct day.
3. I prepared a few, but only towards the end.
4. I gained a few more followers. I started with a figure in the mid-20’s, and I now have 79. About 5 of those have appeared since the challenge ended.
5. I’m now following about 15 more blogs than I was at the start of the challenge.
Not a lot, is my initial response, although I feel if we all advertised it on our individual blogs from about mid-March next year, it might increase figures. This would obviously require a much larger support network, and the new team members would have to be aware of how much pressure was on them.
One area that I found frustrating was the logging-in to make comments. Out of habit, I don’t just hit the ‘like’ button when I visit a site. I use WordPress, but when visiting ‘Blogger’ for instance, it was a task sometimes to get a comment accepted. That is nothing to do with the challenge itself, but it does tend to impact on how much time a person might spend trying to make their voice heard
What will I do differently next year?
I’ll get my topic ready and prepare several posts so that I’m ready to go from the outset.
I managed to get around all the back-up team to give a brief vote of thanks. In my ‘Z‘ post I named all of them with a link to their blogs, so it’s easy for anyone to find out who our organisers were.
I have the full list of my A to Z posts in a menu on my blog. My topic / theme was ‘writing’.
I look forward to next time. Now I must get back to my writing.
I’ll be seeing some of you regularly from now on I’m sure. My intention is to conduct two, or possibly three blog patrols per week.
is for zoom in. This is my first attempt at the A to Z Challenge, and although at times it was hard work, I feel that I’ve been rewarded in several ways. The best way I can demonstrate my appreciation to the organisers, moderators and my fellow participants is to give them a big thank you.
It feels appropriate that I should do it by way of highlighting them here. Among my list are a couple of good sites I found during my blog patrols, so although not participants, they were worth finding.
The list below is in no particular order apart from the first person, who I believe played a huge part in the success of the overall project.
A handful of the blogs I followed through April, which includes participants and non-participants:
Damyanti has been one of the hosts that kept this monster running smoothly, but it would be remiss of me not to mention the others: Lee, Alex, Tina, Jeremy, Nicole, Stephen, Heather, AJ, MJ and Pam. I am listing their blogs at the end of my post, and I will be visiting each one after the challenge.
* http://echoesofthepen.com/Paul is a novice writer, a book reviewer, and shortly to be an online interviewer. If you want to get the word out, impress him with your book and get him onside! He’s also a nice guy and writes a decent short story.
Given that there were over 2000 participants, I think these guys, and Damyanti, mentioned in my intro, are all owed a debt of gratitude. I will get in touch to thank each of our support team in the coming days.
After today, I’ll trim the blogs I follow, but however many are on there, I will do my utmost to make regular visits. I hope you’ve enjoyed this experience as much as I have. From today, I’ll be working on my latest novel again, having left it to simmer since the beginning of the challenge.
I’ll now add this post to my main menu ‘My A to Z Posts 2014’, so it will be there for open reference for one and all. Now, out of recent habit, I suppose I’ll have to write a post for tomorrow. Take care everybody out there and I’ve got a thought for you to take with you with your writing in mind.
‘If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got’
From a tired, but satisfied participant who started the challenge with 30 followers. Bye!
Now, how am I going to spin this into a writing connection?
We all enjoy what we’re doing; writing. We all recognise that if not a lonely life, it can be safely construed as a solitary life. Outside of your shed, study, or wherever you write, you may have family or even friends. They may or may not make all the right noises when they see your work, but let’s look at our blog-life.
Instead of using this post to talk about writing, I thought I’d touch on what we’re all doing right now – blogging and communicating. We’re strengthening ties and creating a better, larger, writer’s community.
Is it good to see a ‘like’ about your blog?
For me, the answer to that is yes, and no. I can’t see the point in telling somebody new that you ‘like’ an aspect of their blog, unless you qualify it with the reason. If you give a ‘like’, give a comment the first time, even if it’s brief. There is an exception to this theory. Once you’ve established a rapport with the blogger, and actually written a comment or two, an unsupported ‘like’ is still nice to see – it shows you’ve made the time to get over for a look.
Why is it so important?
It leaves a bitter taste to find that somebody has ‘liked’ about four aspects of your blog, and clicked on ‘follow’, simply so that you will go and check out theirs, possibly even deciding to ‘follow’ it. In the last month I’ve had five such attempts at using me to increase ‘followers’. I’ve grown wise to it, and the transgressors have been unceremoniously removed. This blog is still very much a learning process for me.
Is this a rant?
Most definitely not. I did feel though that, now that we’ve reached the halfway point on this rather excellent challenge, it was time to show my colours so to speak.
I refreshed my blog at the beginning of the year, and started from scratch. My previous blogging efforts were going largely unnoticed. I now have 59 followers according to my statistics, but I know it’s not accurate so I’ve got a couple of ‘red herrings’ to find. I’m actually following about 40blogs, and though it’s hard work at times, I want to see how things look at the end of April.
Don’t worry, we’re nearly there; the point is coming.
My aim is to have a manageable list of blogs, where there is mutual support between myself, those who follow me, and those I follow. If I have 30 ‘followers’ who are actually ‘following’, I will respond in kind. If I have 50 followers, I will work hard to support them.
I’m not expecting that there is a closed group of blogs, like a Facebookgroup. Good manners and integrity suggests to me that it doesn’t have to be a reciprocal exercise, as long as we are faithful when we hit that ‘follow’ button. If the target blog gets boring, then ‘unfollow’. It can be that we are following 25 blogs, but we have 50 followers. Even an occasional response to comments is good manners.
I know there are some out there with followers in three figures, and I salute you. You are what blogging is all about. My actual writing time is too precious to follow too many blogs. I will however work to support any writer who feels they need an opinion, a tip, or even a listening ear. I am not beyond asking for those things myself. No, sadly I’m not perfect or infallible, but I’m working on both.
What I’m saying in a nutshell is, that those of us that are serious about writing and blogging don’t really need ‘hangers-on’. We do need genuine, like-minded individuals, who can see beyond their own screen, and want to help, and be helped.
Okay. I think I’d better stop writing, or the decent folk among you will stop reading. By the way, there was no intent to injure any blogger, mentally or physically with the contents of this post.
Thank you once again for reading, and where appropriate, following. I’ll see you tomorrow with ‘N‘