Editor of The Verb e-Newsletter
Mary Rosenblum: Elizabeth, welcome to the Long Ridge Post a Note! I'm so
pleased to have you here. For those of you who don't know Elizabeth
yet, she is the woman behind the ReadingWriters website http://www.readingwriters.com/ for writers and The Verb newsletter. This is an informative
and very fun website for writers, complete with great contests.
So, Elizabeth, lets' begin from the beginning. How did you first start the website and was it an a creative venture alone or did you do it in order to promote your writing?
Elizabeth Guy: Hello, Mary,
Thanks so much for inviting me here. Snow is falling outside my window right now, and that makes me wish I had a blazing fire to curl up to while I visit. But no fireplace around here unless I knock a hole in the wall.
I'll slip on some warm, fuzzy socks instead.
So... I started ReadingWriters back in 2002 as a way to connect with other writers, and to help them overcome the newbie mistakes I'd made. It was purely designed as a sideline adventure while I wrote.
A few months after going live, I then added our themed writing contests. (Back then, they were a monthly occurrence. Now they're quarterly.) Those were pretty popular, but overall website traffic was still dragging. So I turned to those who came before me. I read A LOT of newsletters about online businesses, and they all agreed on one thing: you had to have a newsletter to promote your website.
And so The Verb was born.
Voca: It's nice to "meet" you, Elizabeth. I read your opening for a story with a quirky protagonist. It must be fun to create Contest prompts. It also sounds a whole lot of fun to think of writing a quirky protagonist. If one is not the winner, may I ask how much you charge for "requesting an opinion?" In Richard Gibney's "Ramsey and the Child" I don't understand the meaning of the child's last comment. Could you explain that? At first I thought it was a misprint. Why did he say "Day day, Ramsey" Is that some sort of Irish farewell?
Elizabeth Guy: Voca, thanks for dropping by.
Our fees are based on word count--a penny per word. For me, these Contest Opinions are always fun to do because I receive so many great entries, and this allows me the chance to interact with the storytellers.
As for Richard's winning entry... "Day day" is equivalent to "Night night." A child would say it during the day in Ireland.
Pam Out West: Hi Elizabeth,
How did you develop the interactive part of the site? Did you take a class, visit a web-building site or something else?
What do you estimate your following with the letter? How did you set that up? How fast did it grow?
Thank you for sharing your time.
Elizabeth Guy: Pam,
I did visit several web-building sites, but prior to choosing a website host and buying my website domain, I had the advantage of being married to a computer nerd. He introduced me to FrontPage, an HTML website editor tool already installed on my PC, and a graphics program. I also have a son who's an artist, so their contributions helped so much in getting ReadingWriters online.
When I think back at all the hours I spent just testing and practicing!
These days, you can literally buy a website template and have it up and running within hours. You can find royalty-free images all day long just by doing a Google search. And rather than send out your own newsletter, you can hire a list server to manage your subscription list and send out new issues whenever you want.
So A LOT has changed since 2002 (all that I've learned, and still learn, about maintaining a website is invaluable info), but despite the popularity of blogs and social media outlets, I haven't changed my mind about one thing. I firmly believe ezines/newsletters are the best way to contact your followers/readers/clients. It's the active approach (you go to the person), as opposed to the passive approach (you wait for the person to come to you). And personally, I love the intimacy of receiving them directly in my mailbox.
WestPlainsStan: So you're a new writer. A few short
stories published. First novel almost ready to market to agents and/or
publishers. No online presence, except for participation in forums like this
Can you walk me through the steps you would take to market yourself online? You mentioned personal website templates. Is that a better way to go than, say, using something like blogspot?
How do you go about building your newsletter subscription list?
How much do you use Facebook and/or Twitter?
I'm a novice at this, so forgive me if these questions are too elementary or even nonsensical
Thanks for any input!
Elizabeth Guy: Stan,
Since you aren’t opening an online business, your best step would be a blog.
A blog via Blogger (http://blogger.com) or Wordpress (http://wordpress.com) is free and easy, and the quickest way to begin an online presence while maintaining your individuality. You can design it to fit your tastes—background, images, fonts, etc.—without worrying about hosting fees or domain names.
But before you “go live,” there are a few things to consider:
Topic – What will you write about? Whom will you target? Why should they visit? Many, many authors have blogs online, so it’s crucial, from the get-go, to stand out from the crowd. To offer something unique and interesting that, while remaining true to yourself, also attracts others.
Frequency – How often will you post? Some are daily bloggers, some weekly. Evaluate your other duties in life and plan realistically. If you overextend yourself, you’ll soon resent having to post at all. And I think a neglected blog is worse than no blog at all.
Goal – This is the biggie! Why are you blogging? To sell your books? To interact with writers and readers? To illuminate your storytelling skill, your sense of humor, your political or religious views or just to vent about the writing world? No one can tell you what to write on your blog, of course, but don’t forget that everything you write is stored in the search engines and anyone, including literary agents and editors, can find them with but a few keystrokes. Make sure they reflect the tone and image you want to portray. A clear, specific goal in mind will guarantee this.
So there. An excellent place to start. Just approach your online presence the same way you do your stories: one step at a time. Once you feel comfortable in the blogging venue, branch out to another area, such as Twitter or Facebook, and continue writing outstanding content. Folks will notice.
WestPlainsStan: Elizabeth, Thanks for the advice. Very helpful and much appreciated.
Mary Rosenblum: That's excellent advice, thank you Elizabeth! I see too many novice writers behaving like celebrities..posting what they ate for breakfast how many words they wrote. Nice if you HAVE a fan base, not useful if you don't have one yet!
CindyT: Stan, I'm so glad you asked, as I have been
wondering the same things!
Elizabeth, once I start a blog, how do I promote it? How do people find it? Facebook and Twitter are logical places, but are there others? I know that word of mouth (cyber-istically speaking) helps...what else?
By the way, thank you so much for taking the time to be here.
Elizabeth Guy: Mary, That’s the problem with many
blogs and ezines. They tend to be boring because they’re so self absorbed.
Makes more sense, if you’re going to go to all the trouble to write, to
consider those who are reading you.
What’s in it for them? How can you use your interests or special talents to help others?
And we need look no further than the Long Ridge newsletter as a perfect example. You fill it with advice, tips, links, contests, even critiques—all useful information for the readers.
Writers can build a loyal following if they always consider their readers as guests in their home.
Thank you for stopping by!
Here’s an excellent link for you to peruse:
It’s titled “100 Ways to Increase Your Website Traffic,” but it’s also very much applicable to blogs alone. It covers every conceivable way to grab attention online.
You definitely want to spend at least an hour a day ‘networking,” but remember: content is king! So your top priority is creating killer material that will positively blow away your visitors. They’ll not only come back for more, they’ll tell their friends about you. And those friends will tell their friends and so on and so on.
And don’t forget to have fun with it! If you don’t enjoy it, why bother, right?
Ann: Elizabeth: Hello from Australia. Just to let you know I get The Verb and look forward to receiving it. Keep it coming. Thank you from Down Under for putting so much effort into something I can enjoy.
Elizabeth Guy: Thank you, Ann. I'm so glad you enjoy it.
Mary Rosenblum: Ah, exactly, Elizabeth, about those blogs. As I tell novice writers, hoping to promote themselves with a blog, people only care what you ate for breakfast if you're a celebrity. If you are not, you need to give them something they want! So, Elizabeth, what do you feel works best for the Verb? Your contests? I'm curious.
Elizabeth Guy: Yes, the contests are HUGE! Brings a
great deal of traffic (and enthusiasm) to the site.
"What's On Your Desk?" is a popular section, as well as the historical ones. Since I'm a history buff, and I love to research, "A Moment in the History of Writing" and "Little-Known Facts About..." are especially fun. From the feedback I receive, these features seem to inspire most the writers who haven't been published yet. (Never give up!)
Last year, I asked in our poll which part of The Verb readers did NOT read, and over 90% clicked the "I read everything" button. I was pleasantly surprised by that.
Ann: I'm one of the poll tickers and yes it's true I read it all, even checked out some of the music if I wasn't familiar with it. I love the examples and the cleaned up. A great teaching tool for the likes of me who can't see the wood for the trees. The verb has a bit of everything that keeps me reading on and on.
Mary Rosenblum: Oh, that is WAY cool, Elizabeth, but
hey, girl, there's a reason I a: mention the Verb in my Web Editor pick fairly
regularly and b: asked you here. You do a GREAT job.
So I hope all of you out there reading this, who aspire to self publishing that ebook and getting thousands of readers are paying attention. This is the type of PR that brings people TO your site. Elizabeth is giving readers something. They keep coming back and they love it. You're a great example, Elizabeth, of how to make use of the internet.
Elizabeth Guy: Thanks so much, Mary and Ann. You make
a girl blush.
And here we are at Friday already. Where's the time gone? If it's all right with you, Mary, I'd like to turn the spotlight on the crowd right now and ask about their work. (I LOVE to hear the answers!)
1) What are you writing today?
2) Where do you write?
Cindy T: What I'm writing today: Well, I hope this reply
Actually, I'm mulling over my next assignment for BIP (#8) and I seem to have gravitated toward "humorous takes" on things like aging, changing, writing, holidays, etc. I hope someday to settle into a magazine or newspaper column, sort of in the same vein as Erma Bombeck, whom I just loved.
I carry my journal with me always, but I write in a home office most of the time - a special,comforting place for me. It used to be my mother's bedroom before she died, and sometimes I can hear her voice in my head...she was never one to give up, and hopefully, I won't be either.
Thanks very much for your insights and helpful hints...and, I just subscribed to "The Verb!"
Amanda: Hey! I marked 'Elizabeth Guy' on my calendar for
March 21...damn, I hate it when I do that.
I also receive The Verb and just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your advice on writing humour. I'm finding humour tricky to write, it seems to come across as trite, or pithy. My friends 'get it' because they know me, but when I read over something I wrote, I wonder if absolute strangers will hear the undertones, or the sarcasm...and I usually end up shelving it.
Anyway, hope I caught you in time, I don't really have a question, other than the one you already answered from Stan. Just wanted you to know I appreciate The Verb.
Elizabeth Guy: Well, Amanda, I can hear your funny
tone in just what you've written here. Don't shelve those laughs, share them!
And thanks so much for reading The Verb.
Writer Rob: Hi Elizabeth (It's Sunday Night...and
I noticed you were still logged on, way past your conclusion day of
Friday--Wow, I've never seen that amount of interest/dedication before.
Anyway, I will be a frequent visitor to your website and when I get DSL I'll subscribe to "the verb."
On Saturday I attended a California Writers Club, Sacramento Branch Luncheon Meeting. As I am the club's treasurer, I had to attend a Board of Director's Meeting after the other members departed for the day. I am an advocate for building an author's "platform" and we have Nora Profit (Chico, California based writing coach) set up to teach a Writers Workshop detailing the importance and basics of a "writers platform." Too make a long story short, "we" have one member of our Board advocating a "platform" is not needed and a waste of time, money, and energy, until said author/writer is famous. Everything I've read in writing magazines (Writer's Digest, The Writer, etc...) indicate the importance of a writing platform. How does one respond to an old-timer who does not see the importance or understand the value of "social networking."
Thanks for your time with us here on Post-a-Note. The fact that you are still here puts you on top of our best guest list (My recommendation, anyway).
Elizabeth Guy: Hi, Rob,
Just thought I’d hang around a while to make sure I didn’t miss anyone. And by the way, love your kitty cat!
As for a platform, well, it depends on what you’re writing.
In NONfiction, the first question that crosses readers’ minds (and this includes agents and editors) is, Who are you to write this book? You provide your credentials to prove you are in fact an authority on the subject, and that satisfies your audience. So you aren’t only selling the topic of the book, you’re selling yourself. This is an official platform, and it absolutely must be established prior to writing the book.
In Fiction, no platform is needed because it’s all about the story. Doesn’t matter who you are, where you’ve been or how many degrees you might have. If an agent believes she can sell your story, and that it will sell well, she’ll grab it like a bulldog! What a fiction writer needs is Internet Presence(which we discussed earlier), and if you don’t have such when your book is accepted, your agent will advise you to get on it. This way, by the time your book is published—and all those readers are eager to find you and tell you what a great writer you are—you’re already swimming in the Internet pool, creating a buzz, ready to network.
So it’s never a waste of time, money or energy to claim one’s space on the Internet. These days, it’s simply the way to connect with your audience and, for professional writers, to sell more books.
Mary Rosenblum: Today, more and more writing is moving to the internet, self published rather than put out by a commercial publisher. Did you begin The Verb with self promotion behind it? Or did you simply provide an interesting magazine format and hope that your guests would explain themselves?
Elizabeth Guy: Yes, it was definitely geared toward
promoting ReadingWriters, but here's the ironic part: before long The
Verb took on a life of its own. Folks seem to enjoy the short, snappy
features that read quickly--hence its name--and today it has greater name
recognition than that of ReadingWriters.
Funny how things work out.
Pam Out West: How much time a week do you spend on The Verb? Then, how much time a day/week do you spend on your other writing projects? Are you writing a book or manily writing freelance articles?
Elizabeth Guy: Pam,
I spend about 40 hours a month on The Verb, and the rest of my time is devoted to my own fiction projects (screenplay and novel) or reading/editing other manuscripts.
Clearly, The Verb requires an investment of time and research. So if you're thinking of publishing your own ezine, make sure it's a topic you truly enjoy or you will burn out quickly.
Mary Rosenblum: So, Elizabeth, do you think that something like The Verb is a better way to promote yourself than a blog or FAcebook page?
Elizabeth Guy: For online businesses and those with a
solid fan base, yes, I think an ezine/newsletter is essential. And this is why…
If you look at the Internet as a mall, Twitter and Facebook would be door greeters—great for making announcements, passing along links and sharing brief conversations, but you don’t hang around very long.
Blogs would be the kiosks. It’s your little area. You don’t own the land, so you have to abide by the owners’ rules, but you do own the content. You get to name it, design it, decide what you will (and won’t) offer to your public. And then wait for folks to drop by.
A newsletter or ezine would be a department (anchor) store. Totally independent. Instantly recognized by your subscribers. You own the domain name and the website the ezine is promoting, you invest in a list server to manage the subscription list and, owing to an ezine’s roominess, you have the freedom to offer as many items (features) as you want.
Ideally, you can use Twitter and Facebook to direct folks to your blog, and then use your blog to direct folks to your website/ezine. It just depends on how big you want to be.
Mary Rosenblum: That is an EXCELLENT analogy,
Thanks so much for being with us this week! You were a great guest.
Return to Interview Transcripts
Home | Writing
Course | Short
Story | Full
Story | Writing
Send Me Full Info | Enroll | Our Instructors | Our Credentials | Sample Lesson
College Credits | Tax Deductibility | From Overseas | Writer's Bookstore
Free Writer's News | Life Support for Writers | Chat Room | Live Forum | Writing Craft
Calendar of Events | Professional Connection | Transcripts | Post a Note | Surviving & Thriving
LongRidge Writers Group
Copyright © Writer's Institute, Inc., 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006
No part of the electronic transmission to which this notice is appended may be reproduced or redistributed in any form or manner without the express written permission of Writer's Institute, Inc.