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D is for Daunting.

It’s already the first Wednesday of the month – and it’s also April! FYI, that means it is Insecure Writers Support Group and A to Z Challenge. Two blog hops in one. Yay!

Let’s look at this month’s question:

April 5 Question: Have you taken advantage of the annual A to Z Challenge in terms of marketing, networking, publicity for your book? What were the results?

Yes. I did the challenge last year for the first time and it was amazing. My goal with blog hops is to network with other writers. I’ve made a couple of friends last year, though the friends I made throughout the year and kept in touch with have enriched my writing and blogging life a lot more. (You know who you are.)

So why did the networking aspect fizzle after April?

Well, like I mentioned in my reflections post in May, I tried to connect with too many people at once. The linky list was enormous and figuring out where to start was a daunting task. This year’s might prove to be a lot better (leaving your post’s link at the bottom of the letter post for the day with the added bonus of knowing who had actually participated).

The sad part of last year’s challenge: people stopped blogging when it was over. Which meant that a lot of friends I made, disappeared.

Keeping up with bloggers on the same platform is easy (on WordPress you follow them and all their posts appear in the Reader). Keeping up with bloggers on other platforms… not so much. Having to log in to Google so I can get to my subscriptions to other blogs always feels like work – so I only do it when I actually have to log into Google (publicising my posts on Google+, posting a new competition on Cracked Flash Fiction Competition or checking my email once a week).

And let’s be honest: we all tend to do what is easiest.

So for the most part, I’ll only check in on blogs on other platforms once a month (usually during IWSG). Leaving a comment sometimes feels like a lot of work when you’re taking a quick break from your WIP to visit blogs and comment – and you’re expected to do a bit of math for the honour. Or the path to commenting is barred with applications I don’t use. Which means I lurk a lot. Which means people don’t realise I’ve visited – especially when they don’t have a Twitter account linked to their blog (I like to share interesting blog posts on Twitter @mentioning the author).

Something that will make this part easier (as I’ve mentioned in my NaNoHop reflections post):

…don’t force people to only comment with Facebook (or whatever) on your blog. Not everyone is on Facebook, Google+, Disqus or whatever. Make it easy for people to comment on your blog – or they won’t. (And if you can, add a place for people to “like” your post: not everyone is comfortable with leaving a comment.)

So, back to networking.

Anne R Allen has some great advice about blogging:

If you’re a Pre-Published or Newly-Published Author: 

You want to get your name out there and reach as many people as you can, so right now, your primary goal is networking. You can start by networking with other author/bloggers. Fellow writers can be your best resource early in your career.

NOTE: I’m not telling you to market to your fellow writers, which can be pointless and obnoxious. But networking with your colleagues can pay off in much bigger ways than simply the sale of one book.

Visit blogs that focus on your genre—that’s readers, reviewers and other authors—to see what they’re blogging about and get to know them. When you find yourself leaving a long comment: that’s your next blog post!

Visiting blogs can be like hanging out with co-workers in the coffee room at a new job. You’ll find a huge amount of information just by listening. Think of your blog as your cubicle where people stop by to say hello.

But first you have to introduce yourself in a general meeting place.

(Like during a blog hop!)

Anne also has a couple of places you can try out (like the Insecure Writers Support Group!) and a lot of ideas of what you can blog about as a pre-published, newly-published or established author. She says you should treat your blog like your personal Oprah magazine – an expression of yourself… And, of course, she also tells you what you shouldn’t blog about.

We’re all busy. We all want to streamline our social networks and blogs – easy interaction, easy sharing, and easily accessible original content. So start with your own cubicle (as Anne refers to your blog) and make it awesome.

All relationships take work: just don’t be the high-maintenance one or people will go where things aren’t so difficult.

What are your thoughts about using blog hops as a networking tool? What’s your experience been with the A to Z Challenge? Do you find networking and blog hops to be daunting?

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