Erik Deckers is a professional blogger, whose column appears in several Indiana newspapers. He also is a travel writer, a ghost writer, public speaker, social media marketing pro, and a very funny man. (For a taste of Erik’s humor, visit his blog, laughing-stalk.blogspot.com.) In addition, he is president of the Indianapolis-based Professional Blog Service and co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself, No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine. Erik has been blogging since 1997 and encourages any writer interested in building a following to consider building an online presence through Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, but especially via a blog. According to Erik, an author’s blog is the hub of the personal brand — a home base where the authors’ readers can find them, get to know them, buy their books, and keep up with their new releases.
MWW committee member Janis Thornton was in touch with Erik and asked him to reveal a bit more about himself, his workshop, and what his blog workshop participants can expect.
MWW: Who should attend your class, and what sort of prerequisite web and social media experience will they need?
ED: The course is designed for anyone who wants to promote their writing and to build up their readership, whether you already have a blog or not. It helps if you at least know how to use a web browser, have one working finger (or one of those cool computer systems that tracks your eye movement), and understand the principles of social media.
I do recommend that you have a Twitter account, and if you want to get started early, set up a free blog at Blogger.com, WordPress.com, or Tumblr.com. Learn the basic mechanics of how to publish a blog post and embed a photo. Those things aren’t necessary to taking the class, but I won’t be discussing how to do it. They’re very easy to figure out though.
MWW: What do you say to writers who are hesitant to start their blog for fear they won’t maintain it?
ED: DO IT NOW! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!
Sorry, got carried away. That’s not what I say to writers.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with starting a blog and letting it fail. How many stories are unfinished on your laptop somewhere? You’re allowed to have those and, in fact, it’s almost encouraged because it means you’re working and trying to create. But how many stories are still in your brain because you’ve never started them because you’re afraid you won’t finish them? Don’t you regret having those untold, unrealized stories? I’d much rather start a story and not finish it, than never try it at all.
It’s the same with blogging: it’s perfectly okay to start a blog and then not update it very frequently. It’s perfectly okay to start a blog and let it die. It’s not okay to refuse to start because you’re afraid of failing. Remember, we’re writers. The whole point of writing — which is also our biggest fear — is taking a risk and sharing our ideas.
Your blog lets you do that. You’re not writing for posterity or to give the scholars something to study in 100 years (that’s what our notebooks are for). This is to share fun ideas, quirky thoughts, works in progress, notify people when your next book signing is, and so on. You can build your readership and fan base, and find out what your readers want from you.
MWW: What are some of your favorite author blogs and why?
ED: I’m a very eclectic reader when it comes to author blogs. Ryan Brock and Metonymy Media (www.metonymymedia.com) is a good one. Ryan is a friend and competitor, and I love reading his outlook on how storytelling is the most important part of effective business writing. Doug Karr is another friend who writes a marketing technology blog (www.marketingtechblog.com); since my job is social media and content marketing, his is a big one for me. And I read Cathy Day’s Literary Citizenship blog regularly.
MWW: When did you first realize you could write well enough to make it your career?
ED: I never actually realized I could write until I was 29. But I was that annoying guy in college who got A’s on papers he wrote in four hours. I just thought everyone could do that. Writing had always been a part of my work as a marketer, and I always wanted a job where writing was one of my responsibilities. But it wasn’t until I was 42 that I finally had my own business where writing was the sole activity of my career.
MWW: Besides writing books about blogging and social media marketing, you are a syndicated humor writer. Have you always been funny or is being funny a trait that even the humor-challenged writer can cultivate?
ED: Ooh, nice segue into Friday! (I’m teaching a class on humor writing that day.)
I’ve always been funny, although throughout my life, not everyone realized it. But I learned I’m funniest when I write. So I’ve spent years and years, not just studying humor, but studying the psychology of humor. And thanks to the work of other humor thinkers and researchers — Dick Wolfsie, Victor Raskin, and even my dad, a psychology professor and humor researcher (no, really!) — I’ve managed to steal all the best information, and will be teaching it during Part II on Friday at the workshop.
Basically, humor has a formula, and if you can master this formula, you can write humor. Humor is not about jokes — the “two giraffes walk into a bar” kind of thing — but it’s about surprising your audience, getting them to recognize the elements of your joke, and even lying to them. And I will be sharing five of them on Friday.
MWW: What sorts of fun can your blogging workshop attendees look forward to?
ED: I may or may not do any of the following:
* Tell jokes
* Have candy
* Tell the one big secret to successful blogging
* Tell dirty jokes (okay, I won’t do that)
* Tell a funny thing I know about Kelsey Timmerman
* Tell the story of how my knowledge of blogging got me fired from a job
* Give away a copy of my book.
MWW: Is there anything you would like to add?
ED: My Friday session is called “Five Secrets to Writing Humor,” but I’m going to actually do six or seven, BECAUSE NO SCHEDULE CAN TELL ME HOW TO LIVE!
Sorry, I keep doing that shouting thing. But still, six or seven secrets. (I’m just sayin’ …)
MWW: Thanks, Erik!
Erik is conducting an all-day intensive workshop called,Build Your Author Blog during Part I. The workshop is billed as part tech, part marketing, part writing; and judging from the sense of humor Erik reveals in his answers, it’s also bound to be 100 percent fun.
Erik will also deliver the Thursday evening opening keynote address.