Contest: Win a ‘Let Your Story Grow’ Mousepad

This is the photo I used for the mousepad.

This spring, I posted a picture of my bright-green mousepad, which implores writers to “Let Your Story Grow.”

It makes me happy every time I use my computer. And it’s a great reminder that it’s OK to leave the laundry for later!

I’m excited to announce that Caron Reeder, businesswoman extraordinaire of Green Imaginations, has donated a mousepad for me to give away.

Today there are two ways to enter the contest, and you’re welcome to do both. I’ll use Random.org to choose a winner on the morning of Monday, June 27, probably around 6 a.m. West Coast time. You’re welcome to leave more than two comments if a conversation gets rolling, but I’m only going to count the first two as contest entries. If Random.org picks your third or fourth comment, for instance, I’ll try for another number. I’ll post the results in the comments here on Monday. So here we go.

I’ve been thinking a lot about blog readership. My regular readers and comment-leavers have turned this space into a vibrant community, which has been one of my main goals since I started blogging last November. (Thank you, guys! You’re the best! And our discussions have totally strengthened my writing muscle.)

But I want to keep growing this community, and I could use some advice about how to do that. When folks find my blog for the first time, they stick around and read a lot of the other posts. But how do I get writers here in the first place? One thought would be to join Facebook and Twitter, but so far I’ve resisted due to time constraints.

Here’s my question, which is actually a few questions, so feel free to pick and choose which one to answer: What has worked for you to attract more readers to your blog? If you have the same idea as someone else, go ahead and leave that response, or tell me what didn’t work, or explain how posting on Facebook and/or Twitter has affected your readership.

Here’s the extra credit option. To continue fostering this sense of community and togetherness, if you post a piece on your blog linking to somebody else’s blog or website during this contest period (today through early Monday morning), I’ll count that as another contest entry. You can either ping this post or, if you’d rather, leave a comment with your blog name and the blog you’re promoting. You don’t have to mention this contest as your reason for linking to your chosen site–just send some traffic to a blogger you admire and let me know you’ve done so.

I think it’s so important to promote other writers, which is the main goal behind my Seven Questions interview series. I feel the same way about letting others know about books I love. (Speaking of which, I stayed up until 2 a.m. finishing Jane Smiley’s brilliant American epic, “A Thousand Acres,” last night.)

Remember to enter the giveaway before Monday morning, and I’ll announce the results here in the comments. Oh, and if you aren’t the lucky winner, but you want a mousepad for yourself or to give to one of your writerly friends, you can order one here.

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
This entry was posted in Community, Contest, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to Contest: Win a ‘Let Your Story Grow’ Mousepad

  1. I don’t know if this is a legit answer to your question, but nothing I’ve done has been effective. That’s not to say that people haven’t found my blog, but I’m finding that any intentionality on my part leads to unpredictable results. Trying, is equally as effective for me as not trying is.

    Contests, commenting on other blogs, conducting interviews, etc… don’t seem to work any better for me than doing nothing does. People tend to find my blog through crazy, untrackable routes.

    • Kathryn, I tried to visit your blog by clicking on your name up there and WordPress told me sternly, “kathrynleigh_az.wordpress.com doesn’t exist.”

      Then, after I asked nicely, they admitted that “kathrynleighaz.wordpress.com” does exist and I went there.

      So, looks like something is a bit wonky in your settings.

    • That definitely counts as an answer, Kathryn! I like to know the whys and hows of things, so it’s interesting that your pattern isn’t actually a pattern all. Ah, the mysterious power of the Internet!

  2. Sarah Cypher says:

    The most hits I ever received was via Twitter, on a guest post by author David Rothstein, who wrote a long, thorough piece about marketing a self-published book. The number was something like 800 hits in a day. He gave it a clever title, which I tweeted, and it caught the attention of @AdviceToWriters, who had a following of over 35,000 Twitter users. Once a signal finds a powerful enough repeater (to use the radio terminology), then it can truly be broadcast.

    I guess it helps to know what to post, what appeals to your audience, and how to get it out there–David Rothstein is very good at that. I know you are, too, Laura! The trick seems to be finding the best repeaters when shouting into the Internet maelstrom. Twitter has been the lowest time investment for the highest payoff in that regard, but you can probably focus your efforts on certain contests or filters; for instance, GalleyCat offers a “best of” for blogs and Twitter feeds, and target the resource sections of popular writing sites.

    I’ve also gotten a little bit of additional traffic when I’ve been active on the Absolute Write Water Cooler forum, providing answers or chiming in to craft-related questions.

    Finally, short of one post going viral, traffic seems to just take time–a year, or more, of steady work to time the right posts to the right occasion (e.g., about going to conferences when big conferences are looming on the calendar).

  3. Since I won the last contest, I don’t want to be entered into this contest, I just want to comment. :)

    After commenting on your blog posts, I have gained a few more followers which I thank you for! Also, the interview you did with me helped too!

    Other than that, I’m not sure what to do. Even having a facebook and twitter page doesn’t help me much. I have a lot of new twitter followers though but not on my blog. There are days though when people I don’t know comment on my posts or likes them which makes me happy. :) I guess it just takes perseverance. One day I’ll get there!

  4. 1. In my experience, people may read or they may not, but mostly the people who leave comments are bloggers. If my non-blogger friends have a comment on a post, the usually email me. So, if you want more comments (as opposed to just more readers), you’re doing the right thing. Follow 0ther blogs, comment on other blogs, link to other blogs, build community.

    2. I find Facebook useful (somewhat) for letting my non-blogger friends know that I have a blog, and sometimes they pop in to read a post or two. FB is time-intensive (and annoying to use), so that’s a consideration. Also, are your non-blogger friends on FB? If so, it might be worth it. If not, or if they joined but then stopped (very common — FB isn’t for everybody), don’t bother.

    My curent post (up since Sunday night) already links to your blog. Do I get the extra credit for that, or do I have to do another one? (Which I might anyway. :-) )

    • Yes, Anthony, I’d be happy to give you extra credit, since your post is still current at the start of the contest. And to clarify, I’ll probably jump in and comment here and there, since everyone’s answers are so interesting, but if Random.org pops up with one of my comments as the winner, I’ll try again. I’m so new to the whole giveaway thing, but it’s a lot of fun to see all these interesting answers.

      Your Facebook thoughts are fascinating, and a different take than I’ve heard before. I have a ton of non-blogger friends who are on FB, and they don’t even know I’m blogging, so from that standpoint, joining might be worth it. Then again, I don’t have that much time!

      • Jo Eberhardt says:

        Does that mean my post linking to yours counts, too? :)

        In the spirit of discovery, I thought I’d try an experiment on your behalf. I hadn’t mentioned to any of my non-blogging friends that I was blogging, so I shared it on my FB page, and then set up the publicise feature through WP to auto-announce my posts through my FB page as well.

        Day 1: My traffic increased by 40 page views compared to previous average.
        Day 2: My traffic increased by 75 page views compared to previous average.

        I’m not sure whether that will continue to go up, or will drop back down, but it certainly seems to have made a difference in the short term.

        • Oh sure, especially because you did this awesome experiment, Jo! How fascinating, and I do hope you’ll pop by again in a little and tell us if the traffic stayed higher due to FB or dropped after the initial surge. I imagine most people who have FB and blog must link the two right away, so you had a rare chance to test the numbers. Thanks for sharing your results!

          • Jo Eberhardt says:

            Would love to keep sharing results, but won’t be able to unfortunately. (Or not so unfortunately…) My post ‘The 4:00am Wkae-up Call’ (http://thehappylogophile.wordpress.com/2011/06/18/the-400am-wake-up-call/) has been selected for Freshly Pressed. Yay! Upside is that I have had over 1100 page views in the first 4 hours. Downside is that I won’t be able to tell how much FB will have helped.

            But getting Freshly Pressed by WP is definitely a great way to generate traffic!

          • I’m not sure about how many people automatically link FB and their blogs. I don’t, for example.

            I sometimes post links on FB for a particular post, if I think it’s of general interest, but not every single one. My FB friends are pretty much my actual friends (some of them, and a few non-friends — but that’s another story) and they’re not going to be interested in everything I write in my blog.

            My thinking is that if I link to everything, they’ll just tune it out (trust me, tuning things out without thinking about them is the only way to deal with FB unless you’re going to spend at least a few hours a day on the site).

            But if the few times I do post it’s things they’re actually interested in, then they’re more likely to go read. This is my theory, anyway.

            • I’ve found that that’s very true, Anthony. I don’t have many friends on my facebook who will actually be interested in my blog. I did interview a fellow Mississippi writer a few weeks back which gave me lots of traffic. I got more traffic through that than all my other posts. I do get more views when I post a story or poem I’ve written and my facebook friends read it.

              On the other hand, I checked my stats, and more readers this week were referred by facebook. So, I don’t know which is best or not. I do get more readers from facebook than twitter, but I spend more time on facebook than twitter.

  5. Since my writing blog is mostly a means of pressuring myself to continue writing my first novel–as well as a means of documenting that process for anyone else thinking of trying to write a novel–I haven’t worried much about traffic. If you don’t believe me, I can show you the pathetic numbers! :D

    However, I also run a political blog for which traffic HAS been a concern, and there are a couple of things that I’ve learned from that. One is an echo of Sarah’s comment above about knowing what to post; more specifically, if there is a writing-related topic that is in the news or “hot” right now, that topic is a good bet for driving extra traffic to your blog via search engines. It may seem like crass commercialism to program your blog posting according to current trends, but just remember that those trends are current because that’s what writers are interested in reading about. The key is to not merely jump onto the bandwagon, but to add something unique to the online discussion of the topic, so be sure to bring a fresh perspective.

    Another hugely important factor in traffic generation is–believe it or not–titles of posts. I have seen stories on our blog hit the top of the Google News page in minutes simply because the title of the piece included keywords that turned out to be exactly what political junkies were searching on. I didn’t know at the time that they were the hot keywords, but I maximized our chances of hitting the Google News jackpot by being careful to include in the title words that accurately reflected the topic of the piece. If a politician had said or done something important or controversial, I made sure that his or her name was in the title, for example.

    So if your blog post is about techniques for overcoming writer’s block, “Techniques for Beating Writer’s Block” is a much better title than “What to Do When You’re Having Trouble Writing,” because writers are more likely to be searching on “writers block” and “techniques.” And once people find your blog, if the content is worthwhile (and yours certainly is), chances are good that those people will bookmark and keep coming back. Generating discussion is a perennial challenge for small blogs, but the best way to do that is to build a big readership. Only about 5% of your readership (my guess, not a true statistic) is likely to do much participating, so the more eyeballs you have, the more discussion you’ll generate.

    • Very good points (I’m taking notes — I didn’t think about post titles and SEO at all), and I agree about hot topics. I know a few people who blogged about the Wall Street Journal “YA is too dark” flap a few weeks back, but I thought Liz McKenna nailed it (http://stufflizreads.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/in-praise-of-the-dark/), and I promoted her post right away on FB and on my blog. I have friends who are YA writers but mostly aren’t into the blog scene (so they don’t regularly follow blogs, including mine), but they read it through the FB link.

      • Yeah, I would never have thought that titles were as important as they are, either. Keywords are important throughout the body of the post, as well, but titles seem to be a more immediate vehicle to increased exposure.

        Facebook and Twitter are very useful for promoting one’s own blogs and those of other people, but they take time to produce big returns because you have to develop a bit of a following. People need to realize that you are a source of interesting reading on the topic of writing and writers, or whatever other topics you tend to promote. Eventually, people start following or friending you based on someone else’s recommendation of you as a source of stuff they are interested in.

    • Leanne, your “hot topic” suggestion and your reminder about titles are so interesting. In my own limited experience, I’ve seen both work amazingly well. My only example of hot content is the flipback book pieces, and I get a surprising number of hits each day. I’m not sure any of those folks stick around to form part of this community, but at least they’re reading.

      As for your title comment, I’ve been surprised at how my interviews get regular hits due to what I put in the title. “Middle grade fiction blog,” in Google, for instance, brings up the piece on Michael Gettel-Gilmartin, because the title mentions MG, writing and blogging. I haven’t figured out how to make every title effective, but I definitely will think even more about my word choice after this discussion. And picking the right words are what us writers are supposed to do, anyway! Choosing a title is good practice for announcing what you really mean.

  6. I drive traffic to my blog by reading other blogs with subjects similar to mine and leaving comments. It’s worked pretty well so far.

  7. Jo Eberhardt says:

    I’m still very new to this, and so don’t have huge traffic through my blog – but my traffic does seem to be building every day, and I feel a sense of community on The Happy Logophile. The way that I’ve built my readership so far is just by reading other blogs, commenting on them, and trying to add something interesting to the discussion that will prompt people to want to find out who I am. (Posting “me too” may put your name out there, but no one wants to click on your name if you don’t have an interesting perspective or opinion.)

    On that note, it’s really important that if you comment, you make sure to do so with your name (not anonymously) and with a link to your blog. It’s frustrating when I click on someone’s name, and get taken to a FB page or a gravatar profile, or something like that.

    Oh, and I also agree that you need to write something interesting, relevant to current conversations around the blogosphere/news, and with a catchy (and useful) title. Look at the search engine terms that are leading people to your blog, and see if you can capitalise on them. Or look at the search engine terms that you WISH would lead people to your blog, and figure out how to utilise them.

    • Oh, very good point about analyzing where your traffic is coming from. Always drill down into the search terms to see what paths visitors took to find you. And, as you said, figure out what search terms might have brought even more people if you’d put them in your title and text.

  8. Three things have helped bring new readers to my blog.

    One is twitter. I was hesitant at first too, but after the setup I don’t spend a ton of time on twitter. I tweet about my blog posts and enjoy when I can tweet (by using twitter share button just below the post) about another blog post that I enjoy.

    The Writer Spotlight series I started on my blog where I interview querying writers was blogged about (because I asked) on another blog that had over a thousand followers.

    Third, is by commenting on other blogs.

    On blogger I can see the stats, as with sitemeter (which is free), which tell me how many hits, how many pages read and which ones, and how the readers are finding me. Twitter has driven the most traffic my way by far.

    Hope that’s helpful.

  9. Bob Robson says:

    Use every which way, one supposes. I came here by way of Tea Cake Ladies’ blog. So that’s one for the blogosphere. But yeah, Twitter, Facebook, blogs. BTW, wordpress is in my opinion superior to Google blog.spot because you can respond to individual comments. I’ve linked. Good luck!

  10. Jody Moller says:

    Get creative with your tags! If there is anything ‘google-worthy’ in your blog – even if it is only just mentioned, put it in as a tag. My most hit post so far tagged ‘Harry Potter’ ‘JK Rowling’ ‘Maggie Stefvater’ etc..

  11. Sarah Cypher says:

    Just found this really great blog for authors–http://www.authortechtips.com/. (Or maybe this if it makes the link live.)

    It builds on and refines on a lot of the suggestions we’ve already talked about, but seems like a very solid resource.

  12. Mandi Kang says:

    Make use of backlinks and keyword generators. So, in someone’s example above, you’d put “Writer’s Block” as a hyperlink to another article that you own. Try to do this three times in each blog post (although admittedly, I don’t pay attention enough to do that to my own posts). The reason isn’t so viewers can see your other posts. It’s so Google can find your other posts.

    I have so many suggestions for this that I almost wrote out a novel in your comments section, hehe, before I had to edit.

  13. Mo Neville says:

    So excited to join this “social media” workshop! What a find!!
    Just a quick mention…. the most traffic I’ve recieved was from an article I submitted to the Ode Magazine Online Exchange. It was a short “metaphor” regarding our struggle for authenticity.(believe I got close to 300 views that day, which is a lot for me!) I also included a rather quirky & comic illustration. I have to believe that added to the attraction…

    Second, I’ve interviewed a few interesting “trailblazers” on my blog that in-kind, promoted the site on their blog, generating a few more followers….

    Regarding the Twitterverse…It took me a while to get into the right “club”…I had to fish around a bit to find the people posting information most relevant to my interests (this blog being one I found on twitter today!!) – and vica versa. After a few months of retweets, replys, blog posts,hashtags etc. I’ve made some in roads & my work is circled, a bit, on a regular basis. Of course, I would like to connect with more though! But In the grand scheme of things it didn’t take much time – considering just five or six years ago, I would of had to post a billboard at Times Square, likely, to connect with a single one of them! So definitely worth the effort.

    Looking forward to trying some of these suggestions…thank you!!!!

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Mo–and for telling us how you got here! Another vote for Twitter. Fascinating. And the idea of a submitted article leading to traffic on your site is a slightly different take on the idea of being vocal on other writing sites. I look forward to checking out your blog!

  14. And the winner is… Mo Neville! Thanks for stopping by, Mo, and please send your mailing address to laurastanfill at hotmail dot com so I can deliver your free Let a Story Grow mousepad!

    You guys, this was an awesome comment thread. Thank you all so much for participating. I’ve learned so much and now have to figure out what I’m going to implement.

  15. Yuvi Zalkow says:

    Wow! I’m a little late to the party, but these comments are so great to read! A whole course on smart blogging in here… My so-called blog is really just a place where I post my writing presentations/videos once a month, so I don’t have such a big following the way a normal blog would go, but I still found this discussion so interesting.

    The interesting thing for me about twitter (I’m new to Twitter) is that I haven’t had much luck yet when I promote one of my videos on Twitter, but I’ve had lots of success when someone else with a big following happens to stumble upon my video through another means and then tweets to their followers, and then their followers retweet, etc.

    ~yuvi

    • Aren’t they? I may write a wrapup post sometime about all the ideas set forth here, and how I may or may not implement them. But I still have some thinking to do.

      You hit a key point, Yuvi. Self-promotion doesn’t work as nearly as well as someone else promoting you. The question is how to get noticed by people who can swing lots of attention your way. Someone posted one of my flipback pieces on a tech forum a few days ago, and I’ve had a nice steady stream of traffic from that. It hasn’t been explosive by any means, but it’s been enough to give me a new busiest day statistic in terms of page views.

  16. Jo Eberhardt says:

    Just came across a couple of sites with great info on making search engines and twitter work for you, so thought I’d share them here, since this is kind of a one-stop shop for ideas at the moment. :) You really need to do that follow up article, Laura!

    Getting results from search engines: http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/How+To+Be+A+Click+Magnet+Improve+Your+Search+Engine+Results.aspx

    Using twitter effectively:
    http://www.alanbaxteronline.com/2011/06/22/understand-twitter.html

    Both of these are specifically aimed at writers, too.

    • Great resources, Jo! Thanks. I’ve actually started writing a follow-up so I’ll get back on that and figure out a time for it to run. (I’ve scheduled a lot of interviews and posts, so it’ll be a fun, busy July around here.)

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