“What are you up to this week?” a pal enquired.
“Catching up on all the stuff I didn’t do last week,” I replied, compiling the list in my head. “Uploading clones of the website I’ve just had approved, putting up a blog post, editing a podcast and writing a load of advance pieces for Indies to send in before I leave.” I was preparing to take off on another book research jaunt and attempting to get ahead of myself.
“Cool, do they pay well?”
“We do this one for love,” is what I said. I should of course have said that we also do it for kudos, backlinks and kickass exposure but if I had, I wouldn’t have had the conversation that followed.
We spent a while ruminating on the point of free writing. I kept on using that word ‘branding’ and the eyebrow raisings began to look like the sort of facial exercises you see in ads for fabulous secret alternatives to cosmetic surgery. Now we’ve had a good few articles on the subject here at Indies and the consensus seems to be that, um, you should get your little self out there and make sure the interwebs know who you are and also that marketing is a time sink and everybody hates you for doing it anyway. They put it kinda better than that (here and here for example) but we mostly seem to conclude that the writing is your brand, if only you can get it out there.
I ran a test this year. I set aside two months to spend silly amounts of time on social media. I should add that although I use Facebook to chat to pals, I shrivel up inside and go a clammy colour at the thought of forums, groups, Linked-in, Twitter et al. I was frightened by Ecademy in a delicately formative phase of my online development and the scars remain. However, it had to be done. I wanted people to interview for my blog and there was only one way to find them…crawl out of the self-imposed social purdah and mingle.
It took a lot of gin and tonic to cope. I tweeted chatty things to people, pimped my author page on Facebook, joined all manner of groups on Linked-In and commented politely before starting meaningful discussions…it was a full time job. The traffic on my website remained static. The only blips appeared when I commented on other blogs. In shameless ‘taking advantage’ mode I found a couple of blogs that really appealed to my idea of what’s interesting (yeah, this was one of them) and commented a bit more. I sent in a guest post or two. When my two months was up I pondered, as I recycled the gin bottles, over what I’d learned. I’d hate you to think that it was that coherent, I didn’t think, ‘Now then young whippersnapper, what has this experience taught you?’ It was closer to, ‘Can I have my life back yet?’ But you knew that.
Tweeting, Facebooking, group-and-foruming had been getting me nowhere but guest posting was different. It was worthwhile. I felt a bit cheeky, sending people my stuff just so that I could, um, have people read my stuff, but it reminded me of another barter from the time before blogs.
I used to trade writing for actual advertising. I was running a B&B at the time. (That’s a stupidly long story but is, oddly enough, a guest post series on another blog which I wrote just for the sheer joy of writing it. I didn’t feel guilty because I hadn’t heard of branding.) Where was I? Ah yes, I offered a special long-term accommodation deal for new immigrants to Canada. So, I wrote articles for the emigration magazine that Canada House sent out to all its applicants. They paid me with actual adverts…and people booked in because they’d read about us. That hadn’t been cheeky, so what on earth could be wrong with writing in exchange for readers?
I lost the guilt and wrote more guest posts. I began befriending the people who commented on them, after all, we’d connected over something real. Not only did I find someone to interview, I was finally getting a brand out there.
The tranquiliser gun was the icing on the cake. (Apologies, I tend to mix metaphors when I’m happy.) It heralded the Evil Mastermind’s summons and hey presto, Indies became home. I consider myself thoroughly branded.
Go on, write a guest post, you never know where it will lead.