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Writing and Publishing

What’s the Difference Between a Category and a Tag on Your WordPress Blog?

Part 5 in the continuing series on using WordPress for blogging: a platform-building, book-selling tool.

WordPress categories and tags are confusing. They seem to do the same thing and offer similar results.

WordPress Category

A category is like a file cabinet drawer for your posts where you place related content. Categories are general groupings of broad topics. Our site (or blog) should have at least three categories (else, why bother) but no more than perhaps eight (else, it’s too hard to find things).

Each post needs one—and only one—category. Just as you wouldn’t try to put one piece of paper in two folders, don’t assign one post to two categories. (I understand using multiple categories for one post can mess up search engine optimization, and no one wants that.)

Last, never default to “uncategorized.” That’s just lazy and doesn’t help anyone.

Word Press Tag

Think of a tag as a cross-reference tool. Tags can be a subset of a category (like a folder in a file cabinet), transcend categories (like an index), or both. Regardless, their purpose is to link related content. Every post needs at least one tag and can have more, but don’t go crazy. One or two is great, three is okay but definitely stop at six.

In determining tags, consider reoccurring themes or words in your posts. Unlike categories, you don’t need to limit the number of tags you use, but do seek tags you will reuse. A tag used only once accomplishes nothing.

Also, a tag is not the same as a keyword. Keywords are used (or more correctly, were used) to indicate main topics within a post, whereas tags link related posts.

(In case you’re wondering, I wrote many posts on this blog before I understood the difference between tags and keywords, so I have many tags used only once; I will remove or consolidate them – when I have time.)

This blog has seven categories and 231 tags (though once I redo the tags, it will be closer to 50). This post is in the category of “Tips” and has three tags: “blogging,” SEO” and “WordPress.”

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management. He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.

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Writing and Publishing

The Power of Podcasting: Four Reasons to Have an Author Podcast

It seems people are jumping on the podcasting bandwagon. They want to grow their audience and build their platform in order to sell their books (or whatever other product or service they have to offer).

This makes sense. Look at the recent surge of interest in audiobooks, with people who “read” books by listening to a recording. They do this during their commute to and from work, as they exercise, or when they attend to projects around the house. They have become voracious “readers” without ever opening a book or turning on their e-reader.

Podcasting extends the audiobook mindset. A podcast simply becomes another audio expression for these folks to consume.

Here are some of the benefits of author podcasts:

Another Channel to Reach Readers

A natural communication channel for writers is the written word. Blogging connects nicely with that. Readers read books; readers read blogs. It makes sense, a lot of sense. However readers who listen to books won’t likely read a blog, but they will likely listen to a podcast. With podcasting, writers have two ways to reach their audience.

Another Means to Connect with Readers

When we read a book or blog post we use the sense of sight to see the words. When we listen to a book or a podcast we use the sense of sound. With audio, we use voice inflections, interject emphasis, and add timing to each sentence as we speak. These benefits of audio all allow us a better means to connect with our audience.

Another Creative Outlet For Authors

Writing is a creative art; so is speaking. Both communicate but in different ways. Both provide creative outlets, but which tap different aspects of our creativity.

A Fun Break From Writing

No matter how much we like to write, we all need to take a break. After all, once we spend a full day working on our book, do we really want to spend another hour writing a blog post? Not likely, but spending that hour on podcasting provides a nice alternative to writing. Then we can return to writing with a refreshed perspective.

Given these great benefits, you might be ready to jump on the podcasting bandwagon. Not so fast. First, you need to consider whether podcasting is right for you. Next week I’ll look at my experience with podcasting, which should provide some more insight into this intriguing communication option.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Finding a Writing Mentor

Many Writers Wish They Had a Mentor

The problem is that those who are most qualified to be a mentor are also the busiest, and the people who have time are usually not as experienced.

If you find someone who would make a great mentor, just ask them, but leave them room to say, “No,” because they likely will. As an option, offer to provide them something of value in return.

It could be money, but more valuable might be a service that you could offer in exchange for mentoring. If you’re flexible and willing to give them something in return, the answer might just be “Yes!”

Consider Co-Mentoring

Another possibility is to find someone to co-mentor. If you’re both at the same place in your writing journey but have different strengths and weaknesses, then you can help each other grow as writers. This may be a more viable option.

Mentoring from Afar

Last, someone can mentor you from afar. I read blogs and especially listen to podcasts about writing and publishing. I consider these people as my mentors. I’ve never met them and most of them don’t know who I am, but they do mentor me from a distance and help me write better and publish more effectively.

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Writing and Publishing

Social Media Content

For social media, I post an excerpt from my blog posts on social media, with a link pointing back to that post on my website.

Though social media platforms prefer you don’t do this, because they want to keep you on their site, I want to get people to my site. That’s what is most important to me. That’s why I tease the post on social media and send them to my site to read the full piece.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to repeat the whole post on social media, and it’s too time-consuming to write a new post just for social media.

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Writing and Publishing

Writers Should Start Short and Then Go Long

Writers Should Start Short and Then Go Long

In “How to Write a Book,” I posted that the best approach for aspiring book authors is to start out with shorter pieces. No one wants to hear that, but it’s true.

Shorter pieces let writers experiment and learn—quickly. Feedback is fast. And in an online world, corrections are easy to make.

For nonfiction writers, shorter pieces mean blog posts and articles.

For fiction it means short stories.

Nonfiction Results

Over the years, I’ve written a couple thousand blog posts, which are mostly on my main website and with many more here on this site. (I once had five blogs going. Now I’ve consolidated them and am down to two.)

I’ve also written hundreds of articles—both in print and online—many of which I’ve compiled and catalogued here on this site as well.

In addition, I’ve ghost-written several hundred pieces—mostly blog posts along with some articles—for my writing clients too.

These amount to more than one million words. And I wrote most of them before I published my first book, which now total two dozen—and growing. They are all listed here in the books section, as well as other places, too, such as my main website and my business writing website.

Fiction Initiatives

I’ve not done nearly as much in the fiction area, but I did cut my teeth on short stories before attempting novels. Though a few of my short stories have been published, my novels are still in progress, but I am getting closer to publication.

I just need to allocate time to work on them.

Moving Forward with Shorter Pieces and Long

I’ll continue to write short, as I now focus on writing long.

I have a list of over one hundred book ideas, which should keep me busy for a long time.

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Writing and Publishing

Must Writers Blog?

As someone who’s written 2,500 blog posts and counting, you may be surprised that I don’t think a writer must blog. Here are two considerations, followed by a blogging option:

Fiction Writers

It’s hard for fiction writers to build a following with a blog. Unless you want to blog and have ideas for posts that align with your author brand, then don’t do it.

Your agent or publisher may have different ideas, but don’t worry about that unless the issue comes up.

Nonfiction Writers

It’s much easier for nonfiction authors to blog. Just blog about the same things you write about in your books. Build an audience around your content, and they will likely be interested in your books too. Given that, don’t blog if you:

  • Don’t have the time
  • Lack of incentive
  • Fear it will drain you
  • Aren’t ready to commit to it
  • Don’t have enough ideas of what to blog about

Blogging Alternatives

As an alternative to starting your own blog, you can look to guest post on other people’s blogs.

Blogging isn’t right for everyone. If it’s not right for you, invest your time and creativity elsewhere.

Some publishers and agents insist that your blog, but if you know it’s not the right fit for you, don’t let them force you into doing something you don’t want to do.

Just walk away, and look for a publisher or agent that doesn’t take such a hardline approach.

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Writing and Publishing

Social Media Posts

With social media posts, I always want to direct people to my website, my home base, that I own and control.

This means posting a link on social media. I do that on Twitter (because there isn’t room for the full post) and on Facebook (because a link is all I have time for).

I do this on LinkedIn too, but I don’t see many other people doing that. Instead, they put their entire post on LinkedIn. But I don’t recommend that. Direct them to your website.

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Writing and Publishing

WordPress.org versus WordPress.com

Some people say that if you’re blogging as a hobby, wordpress.com is okay, but if you consider yourself a professional you need to go with WordPress.org (the self-hosted version). Is it possible to do a professional website with WordPress.com?

Though I’ve seen some successful authors use a WordPress.com powered website, it always surprises me. Yes, you can have many of the elements of a professional site using WordPress.com, but it will always have a basic, less-than-optimum appearance.

If you have the time and the interest, you can develop a nice, professional-looking site by yourself and for little cost using wordpress.org (the self-hosted option), which is why I advocate it.

As an alternative, many people will design a WordPress website for you and even host and maintain it. But the costs add up.

However, if you don’t want to invest the time or if the thought of doing WordPress.org yourself is overwhelming, then focus on making your WordPress.com site as good as you can.

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Writing and Publishing

Introduction to WordPress

WordPress has two versions: hosted and self-hosted. Serious writers recommend self-hosting. But beginners can opt for the hosted version. Here is a basic introduction to WordPress:

The hosted version of WordPress (WordPress.com) is easy to learn and use. It also has minimal features. The self-hosted version of WordPress (WordPress.org) is highly flexible and rich in features. It has a steeper learning curve.

Like most people, I recommend that anyone serious about blogging use the self-hosted version, WordPress.org, and bypass the hosted version of WordPress, WordPress.com.

However, for a person not sure about blogging and interested in just trying it out, WordPress.com can accomplish that nicely and with minimal fuss and cost.

Moving content from WordPress.com to WordPress.org is not hard—for someone who has done it before. It does take a bit of effort, but transferring posts is mostly following a set of instructions. There are a lot of instructions online and this guide looks good.

However you proceed, I wish you the best. Happy blogging!

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Writing and Publishing

Writers Must Read to Know What Is Marketable

Reading helps us understand what is marketable before we spend hours writing something that’s not. So does talking to others in the industry, especially agents, editors, and publishers. Also, look at the publishers’ current releases.

As a starting point here are some general principles of what is not marketable. Though there are exceptions, they are rare:

  • A book that’s too long or too short for its genre
  • A book of poetry, unless you’re famous
  • Your autobiography, unless you’re famous or infamous
  • A book of short stories, unless you are an established fiction author
  • A nonfiction book for which you have no authority or credentials
  • A topic of personal suffering that many others have already covered

Aside from that, don’t chase trends. It takes about two years to have a book traditionally published, so by the time we write our trendy piece, the trend could be over, and no one will want our book.

Instead, write what you’re passionate about. Just verify it doesn’t fit into one of the categories of what to avoid. And then write it!