My 1000th Blog Post!!!!

This is my 1000th blog post for this blog, and what do you know. I haven’t a thing to say. You’d think after writing 1000 articles on subjects that range from reading to writing, from being in grief to being in the moment, from social networking to socializing, I’d be able to come up with a few pithy words to celebrate the occasion,  but here I am, at a loss for ideas.

You’re probably curious how I managed to write all those articles — well, it took five years, one topic at a time, one word, at a time. You can see all the posts here: Archives — All My Posts.

Here are are a few of my favorite posts, though to be honest, a list of my favorites would include either my entire ouevre or merely the last one I wrote. I enjoyed writing all of them, and at the time of writing, each was my absolute favorite. Life changes, though, and so does perspective; what once seemed profound later seems merely mundane.

The Slang Game
Write Lofty and Carry a Big Chisel
How Often Has This Happened To You? (Close Encounters Of the Buffalo Kind)
What Kind of Blogger Are You?
Sports As Story
A Terrible Writing Accident
The Living Language of Dying
Pat Bertram And Lazarus Barnhill Discuss Writing as Destiny
Waiting For an April Time
Self-Editing — The List From Hell
Creatures of the Corn
On Writing: Looking Up
Free Exclamation Points for Everyone!!!
The Slamming of the Doors

These posts are all from my first couple of years of blogging. I don’t remember why I wrote some of them, such as The Slamming of the Doors, perhaps as a writing prompt. Others I had fun creating, such as my list of bloggers in What Kind of Blogger Are You? and my quiz The Slang Game, and I was disappointed at how few people ever saw the posts.

Thank you, everyone, who has read any of my posts or commented on them. It’s been a pleasure blogging with you.

Virtual Book Tours

Virtual book tours became prevalent very quickly. I’ve heard how great they are — mostly from the major publishers who don’t want to spend the money to send their authors on an unvirtual tour — that I wonder how worthwhile blog tours really are. I know the most popular book blogs do help get the word out, but it’s hard to get a guest spot on those blogs unless you have a publicity department behind you. Some people who have done tours think the tour helped with sales, other says not. Me? I’m still not sure. I did two tours, and neither seemed to make any difference in sales.

I’ve read that for most authors, the real benefit of doing a book signing in an offline store is the connection one makes with the bookseller, and perhaps the same holds true with a virtual book tour. I’ve made connections with other bloggers, introduced my books to people who would not otherwise have discovered them, and talked about my books with those who have read them.

Setting up a blog tour is easy, though time-consuming. You need to research blogs to find the best fit, and then you need to query the blogger. If you are invited to be a guest on the blog, you need to find out what is expected of you — an article, an interview, a giveaway — and you need make sure that every article you write, every response in an interview is different and appealing.

People will not follow your blog tour if you keep recycling the same article. Make sure you send your guest post, a bio, a photo of you, a photo of your cover days in advance. Then on the day the article is posted, you need to visit the blog several times and respond to comments.

A disconcerting aspects of my tours was how few bloggers did anything beyond posting the article. No mention on Facebook, no Twitter, no promotion of any kind. So, the main thing is, make sure you do what you can yourself to promote. Which meant, for me, two blog articles a day, one for the host, and one for my blog to promote the host. Plus Facebook status updates, posting the link on my profile, and Twittering.

The tours were fun and challenging, and I’ve certainly did what I could to launch my last two novels, but will I do it again? Possibly. I have a hunch the benefits of a tour are long term, and the more one does to get their name out there, the better the chance of getting known, but I’m still not convinced they were worth all the effort.

Perplexed by the Anything-Goes Publishing World (Part II)

Yesterday I wrote about how this new wild frontier, this stampede to publish and be damned (or not) of the new publishing world and how it could be lowering literacy standards because of the almost blythe acceptance of errors in books. The prevailing attitude is that as long as the writer is satisfied with the book, that’s all that matters. Neither they nor their readers seem to care if their story is derivative, if the editing is slipshod, if typos litter the pages.

To add to the confusion of this anything-goes publishing world, books that do well are seldom the best. Often, these successful books are the result of a very aggressive promotion campaign or the result of luck — by being chosen by Amazon for an aggressive promotion campaign or by hitting the right market at the right time.

It seems as if the world is a poorer place if good books are destined to remain undiscovered simply because the author is a wonderful writer and a mediocre promoter. Since we reward wonderful promoters who are mediocre writers with huge numbers of sales, the whole book business becomes even more skewed than it already is. People think that good books will rise to the top, that such books will automatically find a readership, but that is not always the case. And shrugging off the conundrum as “survival of the fittest” doesn’t help matters.

Some people think readers are screaming for quality, that readers are lost in the stampede, but when you consider the vast number of sales made by a few mediocre but bestselling traditionally published authors, most people are not screaming for quality. They are screaming for . . . comfort, perhaps. Predictability. A community of like-minded readers.

To make the situation even more complicated, publishers are not taking responsibility for marketing the books they publish. They want their authors to do that.

I recently read an article by a publisher who said that a publisher’s role was simply to prepare a book for market and to make it available. That’s it. Learning how to promote, navigating the insanely competitive book market, marketing one’s book, paying for book tours and conferences — all of that is the responsibility of the author. So then why does an author need a publisher at all? With Create Space, Lulu, Smashwords, and now Goodreads getting into the epublishing business, authors can prepare their own books for market. And what they can’t do, they can hire done, and keep all the profits. And authors by the millions are doing that very thing.

Maybe the problem I’m having coming to terms with this new wild frontier stems from a life-long respect for books, a sense that books are somehow sacred. Maybe it’s time for me to give up that old-fashioned attitude and treat books like any other temporary reading commodity, such as a blog post or a cereal box.

What’s Next? Updating My Life.

It’s hard for me to believe, but exactly a week from now, the Scribbler’s Retreat Writers’ Conference will be over, my speech will all but be forgotten, and I will be on an airplane, probably over Kansas somewhere, heading back here.

I’m not sure what to think about that. I’ve used this conference as a beacon, something to light my way through the darkness of my grief, and soon I will have to figure out what to do when the conference is over. I’ll work on my grief book, of course, and I’ll have to figure out what to do with all my facebook groups. For some reason, they are “new and improving” them to the point of unusability, at least for my non-nefarious purposes. We had some great discussions, and the discussions will no longer be available. Don’t know what the point of that is. All of that collected wisdom just  . . . gone. I also can’t procrastinate too long in upgrading the groups, or I will lose all the members. Sheesh. What a mess.

To a certain extent, it’s the impetus I’ve needed to rethink my promotional efforts both for me and for my publisher, Second Wind. To that end, I will be doing something I’ve never considered — emailing lists. At least they are something I would have control over. Don’t worry — I won’t be adding anyone who doesn’t want to be on the list. (Unless you responded to giveaways, and most of those had a note to the effect that your email address could be used to notify you of future giveaways and contests.)

But after that? Haven’t a clue. I was talking to someone today about the conference, and she asked if I’d ever taught before “other than on the internet”, and it occurred to me that in a roundabout way I have been teaching writing all along. So perhaps I’ll do writing workshops here on this blog. It wouldn’t be that much different from my various online discussion groups, but it would be more structured. Perhaps post a tutorial every Sunday night? And something similar to my presentation for the conference — creating incredible but credible characters — would be a good place to start. Besides, I need a new focus for this blog.  Grief only goes so far.

I’m not in the throes of grief anymore, at least not much — I keep myself too busy. I figure, if my life mate doesn’t want me to be thinking about him, he shouldn’t have died. Can you detect a hint of anger here? He used to tell me I needed to keep a pilot light of anger. He said it would fuel without consuming me. And what do you know — there it is. And it does help.

Funny how life coalesces at times. Everything of my old life (both online and offline) seem to heading for another turning point. Of course, that could be an illusion (or a delusion), but it’s true that this is another time of many changes.

I’ll keep you posted. And for sure I’ll get photos of the conference.

Speaking of photos, you’ve all seen the rather blurry photo of me I use as an icon. The photo accompanying this post is the picture it’s cropped from — my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary party, just a couple of months before my mother died. Happy mother’s day, Mom. Hope you’re at peace.

More Blogs Than One

A year ago when I was waiting for my books to be published, I kept myself occupied with setting up a variety of blogs. I told myself I wanted to test blogging platforms so I could help my fellow authors pick the best one for their needs, but that wasn’t my excuse for setting up a bunch of WordPress blogs since I was already familiar with the site. The truth is, I became enamored with the custom colorizer, and ended up with five blogs, identical except for color.

The blue blog, this one — Bertram’s Blog — chronicles my struggles first to become a published writer and now to become a published selling writer. It was my original blog, and the one I still consider my blogging home.

The red blog, Pat Bertram Introduces, was intended to be an authors’ blog, where I introduced the writers I was coming to know via networking sites. When so many of them ignored my invitation to be a guest, I decided to turn it into a blog for interviewing my characters. (I’d forgotten that until just now. Never did introduce them!) To get the blog going, since at the time it was too soon to introduce my characters, I decided to introduce other writers’ characters. If you’d like me to introduce your character or characters, you can find the instructions on the Character Questionnaire page. At the very least, it’s a good way for you to get to know your own characters.

The purple blog, Book Marketing Floozy, was intended to be a blog to promote my books. I was talking (online, of course — that seems to be where my life is lived nowadays) to a fellow author about promotion, and she cautioned me against signing up for too many social networking sites. She said that I ran the risk of becoming a marketing floozy, just popping in to peddle my books, and then disappearing again. Since I’ve never been one to take advice, I signed up for several sites (though in the end, I did more or less take her advice — I spend most of my time on Facebook, Goodreads, and Gather.) And I started the Book Marketing Floozy blog — I decided that if I was going to be a book marketing floozy, then I should flaunt my flooziness. Again, since it was too early to start promoting my books, I started collecting articles about book marketing and promotion by different authors. The site is now indexed for easy reference, but there is no article about my books, though I did mention them in passing in one of the articles I wrote. Too bad. I did like the idea of being a book marketing floozy.

The yellow/orange blog, Dragon My Feet, was an import from Live Spaces. I set up a blog there using a gorgeous dragon template, and since I mostly talked about how I was procrastinating, I called it . . . You get the idea. So now I have a blog name that, while cute, really makes no sense. And the blog itself makes no sense. It’s become a dumping ground for any article that doesn’t fit with another of my blogs. I have guest articles that are too self-promotiony for Bertram’s Blog. I have a few of my attempts at reviewing books. I have photo essays. Checking out the blog just now, I notice that thirteen of the past fourteen posts are related to books in some way. Perhaps I should turn it into a book blog? But that would be work — finding guests, reading books and writing reviews — and I am inherently averse to work.

The green blog, Wayword Wind, is a poor, loveless thing that sits there getting greener by the moment because of all the moss it’s gathering. I have not posted a single bloggery because I have never quite figured out what to do with it. I planned to post articles about the various themes and research in my novels, but alas, I can’t think of anything to say that isn’t already in the books. I should have talked about the swine flu and how it tied into A Spark of Heavenly Fire, but I didn’t. I could talk about the twelfth planet and the various conspiracy theories I mention in my upcoming book Light Bringer, but I won’t. Been there. Done that. At one time I thought of posting quotes and then giving a commentary, but I really don’t have much to say on any subject except writing. I discovered this recently when I started yet another blog simply because I like the WordPress theme. (Do you see a pattern here?) I call it The Mind of Pat Bertram, but since I seldom post to it, you can see how little is actually on my mind. Then I thought of turning Wayword Wind into a blog for posting my progress with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way program, but since I haven’t actually been doing the program, it fits more with Dragon My Feet. Because of the way I spelled wayword, it seems the blog should be about writing, but I already have a blog about writing.

So, here’s my conundrum. It’s not as crucial as the one that haunts me about how to promote my books, but it is a niggling one. I have a blank blog!!!!! What do I do with it?

(The title of this article was once used in reference to me by Lisa Brackmann, author of the soon-to-be-released Rock Paper Tiger.)

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