Make Your Online Writing Pay | Jane Friedman | Oct 10

Learn how to become a better online writer and monetize your work

Starting Monday (Oct. 10), Jane Friedman is teaching a new online course—“Make Your Online (and social media) Pay” through MWW Ongoing—that helps you learn how to market and promote yourself through online writing—as well as what it takes to monetize your online work. It’s a 4-week course ($200) that’s suitable for all types of authors, especially those who want to develop a long-term strategy for their online platform and creative work.


This course is for both unpublished and published book authors who wonder what they could or should be doing to market and promote themselves through online writing—whether that’s blogging, guest blogging, micro-publishing through social media, or contributing to sites such as Medium, The Huffington Post and other large clearinghouses of content.

The challenge for most book writers is that they haven’t had any professional experience or training in writing short pieces (or even social media posts!) that are ultimately skimmed quickly in online environments—particularly mobile environments. Writers have heard that blogging, or producing content for social media sites, can be an effective way to build a readership, but don’t understand how that happens especially when they have no audience and are unpublished.

This course helps authors make themselves and their work more visible through strategically written online pieces that get distributed and marketed to the right audiences in order to develop their author platform and build a readership over the long-term of their careers.

This course is about making your online writing efforts, especially those with a marketing intent, have a measurable and meaningful payoff—whether for your website/blog, social media, or someone else’s site. We’ll look at content strategies, measurement tools, marketing and promotion tactics, and specific ways to make your online content put money in your pocket.

Week 1: Best Practices of Online Writing and Blogging

  • Welcome from Jane
  • A Big-Picture Preface Before We Begin
  • Basic Principles of Online Writing
  • Blogging Basics (is it for you?)
  • 7 Principles of Good (Professional) Blogging
  • Don’t Forget the Important Role of Your Website

Week 2: Understanding Search Engine Optimization

Week 3: Marketing and Promoting Your Blog or Online Writing

Week 4: Monetizing Your Blog or Website

Building Your Author Platform: March 21, 2015

Midwest Writers Workshop invites you to join us for one of our most popular offerings: ONE-DAY INTENSIVE SESSIONS. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Ball State Alumni Center, Muncie, IN

Cost: $155 (includes lunch)

One of the four sessions is “Building Your Author Platform” taught by Linda Taylor. MWW committee member Cathy Shouse interviewed Linda about what her session will cover.

MWW: You’ve indicated that in your mini session, you will share the best way to start a platform. Could you give us a sneak peek of what you mean? As long as someone has Facebook and Twitter accounts, posts once in a while about what they have for breakfast (ha) and the followers are growing, isn’t that enough?

LINDA: Unfortunately not. In fact, that’s probably the worst thing you can do. Seriously, who cares what you had for breakfast? The point is to use it strategically, to post regularly, and to be interested in what others are doing, not just sharing your stuff. The first thing to do is figure out who you are as a writer and who your “tribe” is–then go from there, which is what we’ll talk about in the session.

MWW: If someone is not on Facebook or Twitter, are they too much of a beginner to benefit by attending your session? Please describe how you see this working for someone who has not started.

LINDA: Getting started on Twitter is especially easy–so if you haven’t started on Twitter, you will have a Twitter account and start finding some people to follow during the session. I will also show you some ways to make Twitter make sense. That is, you may have tried it but been overwhelmed, which is an easy thing to happen. But there are tools you can use to organize Twitter so that you can see only what you want to see. We’ll be doing that, too!

Facebook is pretty ubiquitous, and many people like to leave it as more about family and friends than professional connections. It’s up to them. We’ll talk about pros and cons. If you’re published, you might want to create a “page” for your book (as opposed to a “profile” which is what everyone has).

Others might be on other platforms–[Tweet “the point is that as authors building a platform, you need to be “out there” and doing it right.”]

That’s the point of this session.

MWW: Where can we find you online to see some of the posts you make in various platforms and follow you?

LINDA: How nice of you!

I have my blog (where I write a lot about writing and editing and publishing) at

My professional site is at

My Twitter is @LindaEdits

I’m also a couple other places, but that’s enough for now.

MWW: Can you give us an idea or two of the mistakes you see people making in this regard and maybe a tip on what to do differently?

LINDA: I think many people believe that building a platform is all about me me me, and they don’t want to come across that way. OR they think that since they don’t have a book published, they don’t need a platform. Wrong on both counts. Instead of making your social media presence about you, make it about others–being interested in what others are doing. And if you don’t have a book yet, even better! This is the best time to start building your platform.

MWW: Do you want to add anything else that would help a prospective student of your sessions?

LINDA: This is a really good place for novices to safely put their toes in the water or to learn a few basic strokes before diving into (like that analogy?) the social media world. This is important for all of us as writers. Even if you don’t ever publish anything, being a part of your literary world is what drives you, keeps you going, and keeps you writing. And that’s why learning these skills is so important for all writers.


Interview with blogger Erik Deckers

Deckers, ErikErik 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, 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,, or 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?


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 ( 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 (; 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.

Top 10 Reasons You Should Sign up for Social Media Tutoring at Midwest Writers

Top 10 Reasons You Should Sign up for Social Media Tutoring at Midwest Writers

by Cathy Day

All MWW13 attendees are eligible for a free, 50-minute Social Media Tutoring Session.

Here’s why you should sign up:

  1. It’s absolutely free. FREE!

  2. No other writers’ conference offers a Social Media Lab with hands-on assistance. (If I’m wrong about this, please let me know.)

  3. As a writer, you are the owner of a small business called being yourself.

  4. As a professional-type person, it’s your responsibility to educate yourself about technology.

  5. Since technology is constantly changing, this means that that process of educating yourself will never stop happening.

  6. There’s no point in whining about this. Besides, learning new things is actually kind of fun.

  7. If you sign up, you’ll be helping a young person get real-world experience, which is part of the mission of Ball State University.

  8. I applied for a grant from the Discovery Group in Muncie to hire this highly skilled group of Ball State students as interns. Don’t feel guilty about pumping them for knowledge. They’re getting paid!

  9. The tutors will leave the session feeling empowered: “Hey! This stuff I do for fun can actually be useful and help people!”

  10. You will leave the session feeling empowered: “Hey! Look who’s walking around with a bit more swagger? Me.”

So if you’re coming to Midwest Writers Workshop 2013, sign up!


Interview with author Roxane Gay

Gay RoxaneHow many times have you thought to yourself, I’d love to blog or have my own website, but I don’t have the tech skills. If I could only sit down with someone for a few hours and have them show me how to get started…

We have the solutionRoxane Gay‘s Tech Intensive on “Building an Author Website” during Part I of MWW13. Only a few seats left. Sign up now! Just $135 and five hours of your time (which includes lunch) is an excellent investment in advancing your career.

Roxane Gay‘s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, Virginia Quarterly Review, The New York Times Book Review, The Rumpus, Salon, The Wall Street Journal, and many others. Her novel, An Untamed State, will be published by Grove Atlantic and her essay collection, Bad Feminist, will be published by Harper Perennial, both in 2014. She teaches creative writing at Eastern Illinois University, is the author of the novel Ayiti, and maintains an active online presence via Twitter and her blog. She also blogs for the Wall Street Journal, Salon, and the Rumpus. She’s the co-editor of the print and online magazine Pank.

MWW Intern Sarah Hollowell interviewed Roxane for this week’s E-pistle.

Sarah: Your Thursday intensive for MWW is a hands-on “tech intensive” about building an author website. Your site is gorgeous–simple, intuitive, fun. What do you think is the most important thing for writers to keep in mind when they start work on their website?

Roxane: Writers need to remember that their website is not for them, really, it’s for their audience, past, present, and future, so they need to keep usability at the forefront of their design and content decisions.

Sarah: One of the most difficult parts of having a professional online presence is knowing what and how much to share. Do you have any rules that you make for yourself on that front?

Roxane: Absolutely. With everything I put out onto the Internet, I ask myself, “Will I lose my job if this is out in the world? Will my parents disown me?” Armed with those answers, I proceed accordingly.

Sarah: As well as your intensive on author websites, you’re teaching two sessions. One is called “The Art of Compression” and the other, “What Editors Look For: Writing from an Editor’s Perspective.” Can you give us a teaser of what those are going to be like?

Roxane: In “The Art of Compression,” I’m going to be talking about the power of very short fiction, and how to tell satisfying stories with as few words as possible. In “What Editors Look For,” I’m going to focus on how editors consider creative work and what writers can do to get their writing the attention it deserves.

Roxane’s Part I & Part II sessions include:

  • Part I tech intensive (Thursday): Building an Author Website. Writers need websites, a hub for all their online activity. Building one has never been easier. In this full-day Tech Intensive, Roxane will walk you through the steps you need to create a website or blog. There will also be social media interns on hand to help you figure out the technology and think through your website’s architecture, design, and purpose. Bring your laptop or use one of the Mac or PC desktop computers that will be on hand in the room. You don’t have to know code or technical jargon or have any previous experience. While several site-building tools will be discussed, the session will offer a step-by-step tutorial on setting up a site using WordPress, a best-in-class system for websites that’s free to use. Be sure to bring images and other content (such as your bio) that you’d like to use for your site. This session is still open! If you want to learn about building that all-important website, register today!
  • Craft session, “The Art of Compression” (Friday)
  • Panel: “Publishing in a Brave New World” (Saturday)
  • Buttonhole topic: What Editors Look For: Writing from an Editor’s Perspective (Saturday)

Social Media Consultants & FREE tutoring

NEW for MWW 2012!

Social Media Consultants & FREE tutoring!

By Cathy Day, MWW Committee Member, Ball State University professor, author of The Circus in Winter and Comeback Season

Because MWW is committed to helping you become a published writer, we talk a lot about social media. That’s because changes in the publishing industry have forced writers to become “author-preneurs”-marketers, promoters, social media experts, and much more. At MWW, we know how time-consuming and confusing these tasks can be, and we want to help by offering free social media tutoring.

Yes, free.

Originally, we were going to require you to pay $35 per consult, but we decided it would be easier and more effective to run it more like a drop-in tutoring center. (Those who already signed up and paid will receive a refund.) Consultants will be available to show you how to start a blog and how to use Facebook and Twitter effectively. We’ll offer a limited number of tutorial sessions, so sign up for your 45-minute individual consultation. Bring your laptop and/or smartphone, and get ready to join the digital age!

Where the Idea Came From

Last year, I was on the faculty at MWW and attended many of Jane Friedman’s panels on how to use social media. I looked around the room and saw people around my own age and older with stunned and frightened looks on their faces, and I thought to myself, “Oh, I know exactly how you feel!” I’m a latecomer to social media. My first forays went badly, and I experienced a profound sense of culture shock. (You can read about it here.) I turned to the young people in my life-my students-who showed me the ropes.

I’m excited to introduce you to these four individuals. Let me tell you about each of them, and I think you’ll see why I selected them to work as social media consultants at MWW.

Meet the Consultants

Fields TyperTyler Fields is in his third year at Ball State University, majoring in Creative Writing and Digital Publishing. He edits the BSU English Department Blog and is co-president of the Writers’ Community.  Both of these positions require maintaining a social media presence and/or professional writing proficiency. Tyler has published both creative pieces and academic articles in various national journals and continues to assist Ball State faculty in their publishing endeavors. Tyler currently maintains several personal social media platforms including his  website, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Twitter, and can be easily reached on Facebook.

Q: Tyler, in a nutshell, why is it important for aspiring writers to maintain some kind of internet presence?

A: The climate of writing, publishing, and reading is shifting drastically and swiftly. Unless a writer has become established before the surge of the internet and social media, it seems there is little to no hope for her to break out of the growing saturation of aspiring writers today. How is she to get notice from agents or presses? I think that because most communication has already shifted to internet-exclusivity, those aspiring writers who have yet to get connected are losing out on a myriad of opportunities. One is simply to create connections with other readers, writers, and publishers. Online, a writer is able to maintain connections with other hopefuls and established personnel. And as with any new prospect, it’s incredibly important to have already made connections with those people who can assist in your writing endeavors. Another opportunity exists in the recent push to publish online. I know of several authors who have been approached by agents from big and small presses to submit a novel manuscript based on their publications to online journals.

Further, because it’s becoming simpler all the time to move forward as a writer without a middleman, many writers are taking advantage of the ability to push and market their work more quickly and efficiently. How do they do this? They have a prominent online presence. In the end, if a writer is able to create and maintain at least a semblance of an online presence, they increase their chances greatly to immerse themselves in the world of reading and writing which has largely taken to rely on the internet to provide new, upcoming, and promising writers.

Ford AshleyAshley C. Ford received her BA in English Studies from Ball State University where she edited the departmental literary magazine The Broken Plate, contributed to the university magazine “Ball Bearings,” and served as communications intern with the Ball State University Foundation. In addition to her work with the university, Ashley served as Blog Editor and Marketing Director for

Specter Magazine and Communications Coordinator for local consulting firm, Whitinger Strategic Services LLC, where she ran six successful marketing campaigns using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and various blog-hosting sites. Feel free to follow her on Twitter: @iSmashFizzle, or read her blog, “The Next Thing.”

Q: Ashley, tell me a story about how social media has enriched your writing life, provided you with an opportunity you might not have had otherwise.

A: Let me say that I have a wonderful group of writing friends and partners right here in Muncie. We share work, attend literary events together, and support one another through the toughest spots of our writing processes. However, it is through the online writing community that I’ve found ways to get my work into the world.

About two years ago, I decided to follow and engage one of my favorite writers on twitter. I just wanted to let her know how much I enjoyed her work and how I found her to be inspirational. This led to her giving me the opportunity to read for a well-known literary magazine she edits. She went on to publish two of my essays in different venues. Through this relationship I have been introduced to other amazing writers, offered invaluable advice on writing and publishing, and she has become my writing mentor. All of this from a few initial tweets!

I know not everyone is looking for a writing mentor, but through social media I have had the opportunity to have conversations with writers from around the world who I may never get the opportunity to meet in person. Some of them have even offered to read and critique my work. These connections are only possible via the internet and I plan on using them to their fullest potential.

McNelly SpencerSpencer McNelly received his BA in Creative Writing from Ball State University where he was a tutor at The Writing Center, a member of Writers’ Community, and a copy editor for Stance, BSU’s international undergraduate philosophy journal. In addition to writing memoir and editing work, Spencer was Vice President of Spectrum, BSU’s GLBTQSA organization, where one responsibility was maintaining the Twitter account for the group. Spencer also blogs on Tumblr and can be reached on Facebook and @androgynisto on Twitter.

Q: Spencer, what would you say to someone who makes an appointment with you at MWW and says, “They say I have to do this. I don’t really want to, but I will if I have to. So show me what I need to do.” And what do you have to offer someone who’s a little more advanced, who says, “I’m doing it, but I think maybe I’m doing it wrong. How can I do this better?”

A: Firstly, I would ask them who “they” is and secondly, I’d assure them that one doesn’t have to be a part of social media. It’s an important aspect of being a literary citizen, but not a requirement. I’d walk them through the three main appendages of social media: Facebook, Twitter, and eBlogger. If someone asked about using social media incorrectly, I’d discuss with them about their goals in being a part of social media. I’d assure them that there isn’t necessarily a wrong way of doing it, just a gap in not getting what one wants from it.

Ralston MayeMaye Ralston worked as a freelance journalist and a professional writer and consultant specializing in marketing and public relations media. She has several years experience with online site development, writing, and marketing – including deploying websites, blogs, and social media and incorporating intersecting media. She is currently studying creative writing at Ball State University, where she continues to explore emerging media.  She plans to apply to MFA programs in the near future. You can follow Maye on Twitter @MayeRalston, on Facebook, on LinkedIn, and at her recent blog “The Well of Creativity.”

Q: Maye, one reason why I selected you is that, unlike the other consultants, you’re not Generation Y. You’re not someone who’s grown up using technology and social media. Like a lot of MWW attendees, you’ve had to learn how to incorporate this into your personal and professional life. What advice do you have for the aspiring writer who’s nervous about dipping their toe into these waters?

A:  Trying something new can be confusing, frustrating, and very time consuming. Certainly it can be risky. Especially if one has already acquired a certain amount of professional reputation capital, it can be intimidating to risk that capital in a technological wilderness. I wish I had had someone to guide me when I first started using online tools and media, it would have saved me hours (months really) of hard and frustrating work. As to the risk: not venturing into new tools and technology can also be risky, as the world may well leave one behind, mired in the muck (yes I love clichés) of outdated methodologies. It is a fact of modern life that technologies will change the way we live and work, at ever decreasing intervals. Keeping up necessarily means taking risks, and that means making mistakes. The good news is that even new media “experts” make mistakes, so we are all in good company. If we desire to remain industry viable, anything we can do to shorten the learning curve in order to get back to our real passion (writing) is worth every penny, and every effort, we spend on it.

Homework Assignment!

The consultants have some questions they’d like you to consider before you arrive at MWW 12 and sign up for an appointment with them.

  • Do you have: a Facebook profile, Twitter account, LinkedIn account, a blog?
  • Are you active on these accounts? How active? How long have you been using them?
  • Are these accounts primarily for personal or professional use? Or both? Are you connected to other writers and publishing personnel?
  • If you have more than one of the items in number one, are they interconnected? (For example does your twitter feed show up on your blog or Facebook feed? Or does your blog feed show up on your LinkedIn profile page?)
  • If you have a blog, what is your primary use of this blog? (personal or professional or a little of both)
  • What is the topic of your blog, if there is a topic or focus?
  • How many followers does your blog have? And whose blogs do YOU follow?
  • Do you know how many followers/friends/connections you have on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook?
  • Are your followers mostly friends and family members, or are they also professional connections? About what percentage of each are there?
  • What 1 or 2 things do you most want to learn during your tutoring session? Be sure to come to the session with a plan, your passwords, and a digital headshot photo.

Email your responses with subject line: “Social Media Homework”