Overcoming Obstacles to Create an Author Blog

by Joel Friedlander on May 9, 2012 · 32 comments

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by Leanne Hunt (@LatticeWindows)

I “met” Leanne in the comments section to an earlier post on Author Blogging. Part of what she said was: “I don’t think there is anyone else out there writing about the things I do—I am a self-publishing author, a blind computer user and an amateur psychologist/mystic…” That caught my eye, and I asked Leanne to tell the story behind her comment. I’m very pleased she took me up on the offer, and here she describes her journey so far.



The advice to “Build an author platform” is commonly heard in book marketing circles. Yet how do you build that platform, especially when you are a complete novice where computers are concerned? I confess, I had no idea when I started out, but I’ve learned some things along the way.

Early Synchronicity

My journey into self-publishing began in July 2011 when I heard about CreateSpace, the entrepreneurial author programme run by Amazon.com. The news came via an interview on a local talk radio station and my response was elation. It felt like pure synchronicity because I had a freshly completed novel on my laptop and an inheritance that had come to me six months earlier. After dreaming of becoming a published author for thirty years, I realised there was finally a chance to make it happen.

The first thing I did was establish that what appeared to be a fantastic opportunity was, in fact, true. Once assured, the second thing I did was look for guidance on self-publishing. That was when I came across Joel Friedlander’s book, A Self-Publisher’s Companion and began educating myself.

Now, it must be said that I am not a likely candidate for this sort of thing. I began losing my eyesight when I was ten and became legally blind when I was 17. Up until a year ago, I could only read with the aid of tapes, but July 2011 saw the introduction of the Kindle into my life, with its amazing text-to-speech capability. A Self-Publisher’s Companion was the first e-book I read.

I noted with interest the chapter on using social media to market books online. As a blind person, I had steered away from social networking and anything that felt like over-exposure, partly because I felt technically incompetent and partly because of giving the world a window into my private life.

Yet Joel made it sound so easy and so necessary to an author’s success that I took the bull by the horns and faced my fears. After reading Twitter‘s Help pages and convincing myself that I wasn’t endangering my own or my family’s security, I was ready to choose a Twitter name and get tweeting.

But first I needed a brand. What to choose? Then it struck me; four months earlier, I had begun contributing a column on Open Writing web magazine called Through Lattice Windows, a name chosen to signify the fragmented nature of my visual field.

The name @latticewindows simply suggested itself, and with it, the idea of using a lattice window design as my avatar. Now I was branded both as a colourful personality and someone with a structured outlook on life, which was exactly the way I wanted to present myself.

The Birth of a Blog

But it didn’t stop there. Having enjoyed the sense of empowerment that being on Twitter afforded me, I moved quickly onto Facebook and contacted a string of friends whom I hadn’t seen in years. They were all excited to hear from me and wanted to know, “So, how is your eyesight? Has it deteriorated or stabilised?”

Most of all, they wanted to know how I managed to navigate around Facebook, especially since I don’t use the screen. I told them, that is the beauty of digital technology. What works for the sighted works for the blind; you just need the software to translate labels into voice commands and the courage to give it a try. It’s remarkable.

So remarkable, in fact, that I didn’t want to stop. Joel had written about the benefits of author blogging and I was eager to try it. Again, I found the setup on Blogger simple and easy to achieve on my own. I chose the name Diamond Panes to link in with my lattice window branding, and my daughter helped me to choose a stained glass window image to use in my design.

I really like this image because it creates an atmosphere somewhere between a sacred space and a cosy coffee shop, where inspiring ideas circulate and where people who have disabilities or other challenges in life can appear in a different light. I also like the idea that the world can be seen through many different windows, each offering a slightly different perspective but each having the potential to be integrated into a vast and wonderful whole.

Thus, the blog was born. As parts of my promotional material for my book have become available, I have showcased them on a separate page called “The Making of Jozi Gold“.

As a media kit, I am aware that it is unsatisfactory but Jozi Gold will get the proper treatment once the Kindle version is out. Meanwhile, going through the motions of mastering social media and creating my blog has taught me something important which I don’t want to forget.

Life Lessons from Cyberspace

This is what getting into social networking and blogging has taught me: You build your author platform one widget at a time, overcoming one obstacle at a time. When I started out in August, I had in mind that I would be concentrating on topics such as writing and the back stories of my characters. However, I quickly learnt that the challenges I faced gave me a particular view on the internet which others found intriguing.

People ask me technical questions and I answer them. From knowing absolutely nothing about computer jargon, I can now hold a fairly intelligent conversation with a technician or developer about the compatibility of a site to screen reading software or the features required in web design to aid blind navigation.

All this has nothing to do with my novel, which is a story of love and betrayal set in Johannesburg during the run-up to the 2010 World Cup. Nor does it really have anything to do with my stated goals for the blog—to provide a meeting place for blind visionaries and sighted seekers-in-darkness.

Yet what it does do is demonstrate, in very real and practical terms, how someone who started out as a technophobe and couldn’t even conceive of using a cell phone can change into an advocate for accessibility on the web and self-publish a book in the process.

I believe this is a good route to pursue because it is entirely personal and true to my lived experience. Thus, I am following the other advice that you hear in book marketing circles; namely, “Don’t blog about the book. Blog about your reasons for writing the book.”

Jozi Gold is essentially the story of a woman who picks up the broken threads of her life and weaves them into something worth treasuring, and this is the message I want to convey. Transforming hope into glory truly is possible.

Have you turned an obstacle into a focus for your author blog? How have you woven disadvantage together with opportunism to produce a profitable outcome? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.

author bloggingLeanne Hunt lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, with her husband and two daughters. She writes about her interests in books, spirituality and accessibility for blind people at DiamondPanes.blogspot.com which is also where you can find details of her upcoming book, Jozi Gold.

Blog header photo by dynamosquito

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    { 31 comments… read them below or add one }

    Leanne Hunt January 20, 2014 at 11:22 am

    Great! I’ll be in touch!

    Reply

    Leanne Hunt January 20, 2014 at 9:48 am

    Thanks, Joel! I really appreciate you looking in and acknowledging my work! I would be thrilled to contribute another post and have an idea for an article on staying fresh and authentic. What do you say?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 20, 2014 at 10:59 am

    I say go for it.

    Reply

    Leanne Hunt January 19, 2014 at 7:33 am

    Thanks, Susan! Having maintained my blog for over two years now, I can really say that the discipline of regular blogging has honed my writing skills and produced something really worthwhile — an online, up-to-date portfolio of work to support my fiction writing. Over time, this will continue to grow like an investment and be accessible by readers, publishers and book reviewers alike — what could be of more value than that?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 19, 2014 at 11:08 am

    Leanne, just wanted to say how much you’ve grown as a blogger over the time since this post appeared, and the fact that you’ve “honed your skills” and amassed a portfolio are terrific outcomes. Almost time for an “update post”?

    Reply

    susan scott March 5, 2013 at 5:33 am

    Lovely post Leann and so well done! Thanks to Joel too for posting this. Keep up the sacred-ness.
    And thanks too for all the comments that are most interesting.

    Reply

    Leanne Hunt June 29, 2012 at 12:44 am

    An update to this post: What it feels like to publish a book. http://diamondpanes.blogspot.com/2012/06/what-it-feels-like-to-publish-book.html

    Reply

    Theresa Nash May 24, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Leanne,
    I’m new to all this myself, and have barely gotten the bones of a website and a blog started. I “pushed publish” the day before I underwent major surgery (yes, I was a wee bit worried I wouldn’t make it), and barely had time to research the marketing side. Suprise, I lived! And now I spend healing time reading blogs like this. Your post has literally inspired me. While talking to the computer screen about how your approach would never work for me, I finally figured out what was holding me back! After months of dithering around with ideas for my own blog, I know just how to approach it now, thank you!

    Reply

    Leanne Hunt June 6, 2012 at 2:16 am

    This is so wonderful to hear, Theresa! I wish you a speedy recovery and lots of inspiration and energy for your author blog. I love it when I hear of stories like yours because it makes all the tough times, the times when things don’t go easily, worthwhile. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply

    Michael Mullin May 23, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Thanks for sharing your inspiring story, Leanne. And thanks Joel for providing her the forum to do so.

    Reply

    Leanne Hunt June 6, 2012 at 2:10 am

    Well said, Michael. Joel has an amazing ability to see the need and provide support in the self-publishing arena. This was a great opportunity for me to share.

    Reply

    Kate Dunn May 23, 2012 at 8:42 am

    What a fantastic story about the commitment you need to succeed – at anything, I guess, but writing in particular. As a technophobe myself, I was very heartened by your tale. Thanks. Kate

    Reply

    Leanne Hunt June 6, 2012 at 2:06 am

    You’re welcome, Kate. Sorry to get back to you so late but I appreciate your response. Technophobia can be cured, believe me!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander June 6, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Kate, you couldn’t be that bad, since you left a comment here. You would be surprised what a hurdle that is for many people new to blogs, so give yourself a high-five!

    Reply

    Leanne Hunt June 8, 2012 at 8:31 am

    That’s a very good point, Joel. I still find commenting on blogs a little daunting. However, every little victory is a step towards a big victory and that’s what makes it worthwhile joining the discussion.

    Reply

    Sally Fletcher May 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    The first thing I’ll do is check the spelling of the author’s name!

    Reply

    Leanne Hunt May 10, 2012 at 3:13 am

    Don’t feel bad. My screen reading software is seldom up to spelling names in comment fields so I always go by what it sounds like!

    Reply

    Sally Fletcher May 9, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Leann, your story is inspirational. The next time I experience “technophobe” I’ll read your blog again!

    Reply

    Leanne Hunt May 10, 2012 at 3:10 am

    Thank you, Sally. I always find that facing my fear and overcoming a barrier to growth gives me a tremendous kick. In fact, if I could do it every day, I would – just for the enjoyment of it!

    Reply

    Matt May 9, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Great story, thanks for sharing!

    “Have you turned an obstacle into a focus for your author blog? How have you woven disadvantage together with opportunism to produce a profitable outcome?”

    Another good idea. Haven’t done this with a blog posting (at least knowingly or really focused) but I know what you mean, do this for songs all the time, probably produces the best tunes/lyrics. The old finding the lesson learned, sharing and moving on deal. Thanks again, have added your feed to my reader to get more insights going forward.

    Reply

    Leanne Hunt May 9, 2012 at 11:55 am

    Right. Gene Kelly/Arthur Freed called it “Singing in the Rain” and it certainly makes for a good theme! Leanne.

    Reply

    Dagmar Weston May 9, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Leanne, your post is beautifully written & makes me want to read/hear more! You really are gifted. Thank you, Dagmar

    Reply

    Leanne Hunt May 9, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Thank you so much, Dagmar! I blog every day at diamondpanes.blogspot.com [see link above] and would welcome you as part of the sacred space community. My book is scheduled to come out around the middle of the year so look out for updates.

    Reply

    Anne @ Zen and Genki May 9, 2012 at 9:46 am

    Excellent post and full of inspiration to boot – perfect read. Thanks!

    Reply

    Leanne Hunt May 9, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Glad I could add sparkle to your day, Anne!

    Reply

    Martina Sevecke-Pohlen May 9, 2012 at 7:37 am

    A very inspiring story and a great example of how technology helps overcome difficulties. After my book “Sandras Schatten” was published on Kindle I contacted a list of German speaking bloggers and asked them to write reviews. That way I met a swiss woman who was a dyslectic. Her mother had always encouraged her to read, so despite her difficulties she had come to love books. Some years ago she started her blog as a way to master writing, too. I told her how impressed I was and she answered some readers complained about her mistakes and told her to stop!

    Reply

    Leanne Hunt May 9, 2012 at 8:27 am

    That is a tragic story, Martina. I think that anyone who has the courage to overcome an impediment like dyslexia or blindness should be encouraged, not shamed. It is my hope that the internet will open the way for more “silent” people to write, thereby giving their view of the world and so enlarging the story that we, as human beings, are collectively writing. Congratulations on getting your book published on Kindle – I have yet to cross that bridge but definitely think it is the way to go!

    Reply

    Turndog Millionaire May 9, 2012 at 5:48 am

    Wow, great article and a very inspiring story. It’s amazing the doors the Internet has opened for people. It’s created a lot of noise and competition, but I feel it’s totally worth it when you consider the joy it can bring

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

    Reply

    Leanne Hunt May 9, 2012 at 8:20 am

    “Joy” is right, Matt. So many people who were previously isolated now have access to resources and networks. Likewise with book marketing, people who couldn’t face the thought of a book tour now have the option of a powerful online platform. It all goes to improve quality of life.

    Reply

    Neil Skywalker May 9, 2012 at 2:47 am

    Hey Joel,

    I’m near finishing my (e)book and i’m about to give my website a big upgrade (although you might not like the content). I just found this website yesterday. I find your website very helpful and i’m looking forward to reading and using your tips and tricks.

    Thanks

    Neil,

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 9, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Thanks, Neil, glad you’re enjoying the blog.

    Reply

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