8 More Ways to Help Your Friend, the Writer
It wasn’t until I started writing semi-professionally that I realized how important it is to have people gush over you. Not only does my fragile ego need it, as there are still more rejections than victories, but my writing—from the first words on the screen to the articles on the sites—needs it as well. It’s nice to be reminded what you are laboring over matters to someone other than you and that, in the end, people will be reading it, if all goes well, voluntarily.
The support I’ve received over the last two years has been incredible. Old friends have come back into my life to Like & Share & +1. New friends have rallied to the cause and helped me promote my writing. I honestly couldn’t ask for more, and what is incredible is that people still often ask me what more they could do. So, as a service both to myself and to those other writers still nickel-and-diming their way into a living, I’ve compiled a list of things that might honestly help me…us. (But, if you’re reading this, mostly me.)
1. Drop a line letting us know you’ve liked or simply read something. To be honest about being shamefully self-involved, I become consumed with everything I put out there, revisiting sites to see how many people have “liked” it. I’m giddy every time somebody bothers to leave a little comment on Facebook or at the bottom of an article or blog post. For me, it means someone actually read it, possibly even from top to bottom, and that is just awesome. I was never a particularly needy writer before being published, but after a little recognition, it seemed my need for more grew insatiable: Did they like this one, too?
2. Share what you like. It’s amazing what happens when people start to share on Facebook (and like—but sharing reaches more people), retweet, and/or +1 an article. More often than not, my articles settle in somewhere between twenty and fifty likes, but a few times, I’ve watched the good stuff skyrocket: 100+ Likes, a dozen Tweets, etc. I don’t know how it used to be, but these days writers spend a lot of time promoting their publications on social media. To see something get this sort of visible applause is so reassuring, both that the writing is okay and that the incessant posting isn’t annoying the hell out of people.
3. Join in on all the social media outlets you use. When I promote an article, I put it up on no less than five different outlets at a time. These outlets have become so important to writers. The number of followers, friends, connections, and links we acquire means a tremendous amount in terms of the likelihood our latest article will be read by as many people as possible and, in turn, of our writing being a viable commodity for publishers. Writing now must compete with YouTube!, Vimeo, and the like, so it’s becoming unprofitable for sites to buy anything but bulleted lists and Miley Cyrus stunts.
4. Let us know what you want to know. I started off as a poet, and one that expected readers to recognize genius (whatever I decided to write). Now, I realize that what I really want to write is what people are interested in reading. Fortunately for me, the expat life is one that yields a lot of material, and unfortunately, a lot of that material becomes a little too typical after a while. Sometimes it’s a struggle to weed through what’s too basic and what’s too specific. Publications, especially, want those articles people (you) will click on, which might not be “Four Awesome Multi-Purpose Tree Projects in Guatemala”.
5. Actually visit our website from time to time. The cyber world keeps track. The same way an article that receives a lot of attention will benefit its publisher, a website that gets a lot of traffic will benefit its creator. One of the first things I do every morning is check how many people visited my site the day before (usually between 50 and 150 a day). When the site’s traffic gets to a certain point, I’ll be able to monetize the site selling ad space, using affiliate programs (where I’m paid a commission), and garnering more attention from paying publishers. It’s a more stable income than selling article freelance.
6. Set our websites as your homepage, if only for a week or month. This is crazy devotion and beyond any realistic expectation, but essentially, it would mean that you visit the website daily, possibly distracting yourself with an article before getting down to business. In my case, I update my website Welcome page about once a week, which would mean opening up to the same thing so often it might drive some friends into an intense hatred of me and all things associated. I wouldn’t want that, but…
My mom asks me a lot about how she can help. Like moms tend to be, she’s really proud I’ve managed to get my name up in luminous places, glamorous websites like Transitions Abroad, BucketTripper, and BootsnAll, and she wants to show me. I know she has likely shared my every publication with my aunts and uncles, her friends and colleagues, probably a few people down at Friday happy hour. She’s never been bashful (though I may have been) about talking me up. This sort of devotion…she’ll love me no matter what, no matter how many times she sees my stupid website when she logs on.
7. Paying attention to certain monetization efforts, and when possible (not costing you any extra) use them. Namely, affiliate programs. This week I’ll be launching a new website www.thengolist.com, which I’ve monetized through affiliate links. These links are sort of like ads (that I’ve personally selected), only I’m paid by commission rather than for the ad space. The idea would be that, if you are going to buy a book from Better World Books anyway, knowing that my site has a link to it, visiting my site to get to the Better World Books website would mean the same cost for you and little money for me.
8. Include links on your pages and personal websites. Similar to sharing through social media, including hyperlinks or quick routes to articles you like or a website in general is an amazing way of promoting us. Many websites these days don’t even offer meager sums for articles (I’ve been paid as low $10 or, sometimes, nothing), but they offer to promote your website or blog as compensation. And, truth told, the more avenues that lead to a writer, the more likely that writer will find a fan. The fan means one more person to possible do the aforementioned things.
So, for those hundreds who have supported me and sought to support me more, I hope I’ve not overstepped my boundaries with these suggestions. Typing up the end of this blog entry, it seems a bit presumptuous to compile a wish list to tell others what it is exactly you can do to help me. But, it’s a question I’ve fielded often, a genuine interest from some, about things that genuinely make a big difference in my sometimes reclusive, overly obsessed life.
My wife, who has suffered neglectful evenings and my head-scratching frustration more than I’d like to admit, has been incredibly supportive. She’s listened to me read manuscripts aloud, offered ill-received criticism when I needed it, and always believed I could do it, whatever “it” was. She’s endured a new growing obsession with SEO-related stuff and the onset of social media fixation. She’s always asked how she could help, and she’s now partnered with me in the creation of our new, truly useful site: The NGO List.
We are doing our first big promotion of The NGO List this weekend. It’s a website that is meant to link travelers who would like to spend some time volunteering with organizations that would like to have volunteers. So, if this latest blog has you at all inspired, spend a little time on the site, maybe like the page on Facebook, follow on Twitter, and help us build a big audience on our first weekend. Like always, thanks so much for your interest.