Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sommer’s Top Ten Tips for A-to-Zing It In April: an #atozchallenge essential

We have a Video contest winner!  Rachel Morgan from Rachel Morgan Writes!   Here is her video:

          You'll be hearing more about Rachel on the co-host blogs over the next couple of weeks.
          The voting was pretty evenly distributed and we want to thank all of you who voted and especially  the participants for their creative entries.  Please be sure to stop by all of their sites to show your appreciation.   Here is the complete list of the other A to Z Video Contest entrants and the links to their videos and their sites:

Video Link                          Blog or website

1.Ron Easton                          Dad's Unlimited
2. Ada Zdanowicz                   CollagePodge
3. Marta Szemik                      Marta Szemik's Blog
4. Nicole Ayers   (3)                     Madlab Post
5. Kathleen Medina                  Living 2012
6. Dale Smurthwaite                 Smurfin' the Web
7. Tracy Jo Blowers                Brand New Day  
8. Reka Sang                           A Chronicle of Dreams
9.  Nicole Ayers  (1)                     The Madlab Post
10. Nicole Ayers (2)                  The Madlab Post
11.  Rachel Morgan                   Rachel Morgan Writes
12.  Jocelyn Rish                        Jocelyn Rish

And now for today's special guest:

       Our thanks to Sommer Leigh for allowing us to reprint this post from her blog Tell Great Stories.  The information in this post is something everyone needs to read and heed.

The April A to Z Challenge is quickly approaching and I’m working on my blog posts for it. My month of blog posts will have a theme, but I’m not going to reveal what it is just yet. Instead I want to give you some tips from one blogger to the next if you are participating or thinking about participating in this crazy challenge. With a little prep work, you can totally have a great time. And if you are on the fence about whether you should do it or not, let me assuage your fears. You’re going to have a blast.
Granted, everyone does it differently, but this is what I learned from the 2011 April A to Z Challenge. Ready?

Sommer’s Top Ten Tips for A-to-Zing It In April

  1. Pre-plan your posts. Write them ahead of time. Schedule them before the month even begins. You’re going to want your posts to run smoothly without you while you’re out there checking out what everyone else is doing.  Meeting new people is the best part of this month and you need to have time to read other blogs. Which reminds me, check out LOTS of other A to Z bloggers!!
  2. Make sure your blog is set up so that it is easy for everyone to post a comment. If you have Blogger, consider turning on Name/URL and Anonymous commenting to make it easier on those of us with self hosted blogs and those who do not have a blog or Google account.
  3. Turn off CAPTCHA or any other “Prove you are not a robot” gimmick on your comments. People are less likely to comment when you make them jump through a lot of hoops and all major blog services come equipped with a spam blocker of some kind anyway. Last year I read more than 400 blogs and the ones I didn’t comment on were the ones who had this turned on. After a while it was too much extra annoyance.
  4. Check your sidebar for the following items: Info about who you are and what sort of blog you run is always nice to find. What name should we call you? List your email address prominently. Make sure you have an easy to find RSS button so people can easily add you to their feed reader. Since only Blogger users can use Google Friend Connect starting in March, you’ll want to make sure you have the Google Friend Connect AND an RSS button. Clean house of any button that honks, blinks, flashes, or animates. These can be hell on your internet speed and they are super annoying to most people.  Try to keep your sidebars clean during April so people can navigate around easier.
  5. Respond to comments that ask questions or need feedback of some kind. It drove me crazy whenever I’d go back to check blogs I’d commented on to see if my question had been answered only to discover the blogger wasn’t responding to ANYONE. I know I did not make a point to go back to blogs where we were clearly not very important to the blogger. It’s like talking to a wall.
  6. Write shorter blog posts and use pictures, video, and other media effectively. Reading a lot of blog posts is tough, but I appreciated the short and sweet with lots of great media. A good rule of thumb word count is 400 words or less. I broke this rule a lot last year but I wish I hadn’t.
  7. Be gracious, poised, and appreciative. The challenge is great because it brings a lot of new traffic to your blog. It can also bring a lot of trolls, too. Not everyone is nice and don’t let anyone who isn’t nice ruin it for you. In fact, don’t respond to them at all. If the comment is truly malicious, feel justified in deleting it. If it’s just kind of jerky, ignore it. YOU are the gracious, poised, and appreciative blogger who loves everyoneand is willing to play nice. Don’t degrade yourself by getting into it with people who suck. It never ends well.
  8. Take a deep breath. Exhale. This is not the most important thing in the world. If you miss a letter, so be it. If you post a letter late, that’s fine. If you don’t get to visit many blogs in the challenge, don’t sweat it! No one is going to show up at your door and flog you to death if you don’t do everything right every day. Whatever you do, do not let the challenge overwhelm you or make you unhappy. If you have to step away for a few days or a week or the rest of the month, it’s fine. Really. Take care of yourself first.
  9. Make a point during the month to stop by all of the host’s blogs. They are doing a tremendous amount of work to make this event a success and they deserve a pat on the back, a kind email, a small note of thanks. You don’t have to follow them if you don’t want to, but I think they deserve our appreciation by the buckets full. Remember, be gracious, poised, and appreciative. 
  10. Spread the word. The more of your friends who are participating, the better. Right? It’s like a month long party and we’re all the guests of honor!

A to Z Team for 2012

 Tossing It Out (Arlee Bird)
Amlokiblogs (Damyanti Biswas)
Alex J. Cavanaugh (Alex J. Cavanaugh)
Life is Good (Tina Downey)
Cruising Altitude 2.0 (DL Hammons)
Retro-Zombie (Jeremy Hawkins)
The Warrior Muse (Shannon Lawrence)
The QQQE (Matthew MacNish)
Author Elizabeth Mueller (Elizabeth Mueller)
Pearson Report (Jenny Pearson)
No Thought 2 Small (Konstanz Silverbow)
Breakthrough Blogs (Stephen Tremp)
Coming Down The Mountain (Karen Jones Gowen)

From the A to Z Blog:

A to Z 2012 Challenge [Letter Schedule]
Week One:
April 01, Sunday – Letter “A”
April 02, Monday – Letter “B”
April 03, Tuesday – Letter “C”
April 04, Wednesday – Letter “D”
April 05, Thursday – Letter “E”
April 06, Friday – Letter “F”
April 07, Saturday – Letter “G”
Week Two:
April 08, Sunday – BREAK
April 09, Monday – Letter “H”
April 10, Tuesday – Letter “I”
April 11, Wednesday – Letter “J”
April 12, Thursday – Letter “K”
April 13, Friday – Letter “L”
April 14, Saturday – Letter “M”
Week Three:
April 15, Sunday – BREAK
April 16, Monday – Letter “N”
April 17, Tuesday – Letter “O”
April 18, Wednesday – Letter “P”
April 19, Thursday – Letter “Q”
April 20, Friday – Letter “R”
April 21, Saturday – Letter “S”
Week Four:
April 22, Sunday – BREAK
April 23, Monday – Letter “T”
April 24, Tuesday – Letter “U”
April 25, Wednesday – Letter “V”
April 26, Thursday – Letter “W”
April 27, Friday – Letter “X”
April 28, Saturday – Letter “Y”
Week Five:
April 29, Sunday – BREAK
April 30, Monday – Letter “Z”

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Jaye Robin Brown said...

Great tips, thanks!

MISH said...

All the video entries were awesome! Congratulations to Rachel on winning the contest!
Thanks to Sommer Leigh for the great advice!

Matthew MacNish said...

All great points. Thanks, Sommer!

Lisa said...

The hosts are indeed doing a major task. I appreciate and admire them. Thank you for the tips, I am hoping to be able to blog freely during the challenge.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Congratulations, Rachel! And hers was one of the last entries.
Excellent tips, Sommer. Hopefully no jerks ruin the Challenge for anyone.

Ron Easton for Dads UnLimited said...

Great to have all these points in one concise posting.
Congratulations, Rachel. Very well deserved!

Sarah Ross said...

Well done Rachel, I really liked your video and you got my vote.

Also, Sommer's tips are really helpful and I will be taking them on board as I embark on my first A to Z Challenge. Promised myself I would be really organised with this and yet I'm still to prepare a single post! *panics!*

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lee .. congratulations Rachel - fun video .. and excellent reminder points .. Cheers Hilary

Suze said...

Cute video by Rachel -- I had considered doing 'zygote.' :)

Laura said...

fantastic tips - I'm printing this post!

Mimi said...

can I put the winning video on my blog? What should I use for credits?

Mimi Torchia Boothby Watercolors

Unknown said...

Thank you, thank you to whoever voted for my video! I had fun making it, and I'm glad you guys enjoyed it too :-)

DEFINITELY turn off Captcha - I think that may be the most important one on this list! Those things are super annoying!

Heather Murphy said...

Congratulations Rachel!
I enjoyed reading the tips also. Well said Sommer. "See you" in April :)

Pearson Report said...

Congratulations Rachel! Great video!

And...excellent tips here too!

Jenny @ Pearson Report
Co-Host of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Tara Tyler said...

way to go rachel!
and awesome tips! you covered all the basic necessities!

Jarm Del Boccio said...

Loved the video, Rachel...creatively done! And Arlee, thanks for the reminders and tips...can't have too many.

Unknown said...

Congrats to Rachel!

Also, very very good tips there. I didn't know about the change to Friend COnnect, so I'll have to sort out the RSS subscription :)

Peaches Ledwidge said...

No challenge for me.

Jocelyn Rish said...

Congrats, Rachel! My poor puppies were whining in their Alpo about not winning, but when I told them how cool your stop motion was, they felt much better. :-)

Daisy Carter said...

Congrats, Rachel! What a great video - I'm so impressed with all the talent!

This is a great top 10 list, thanks! It's my first a-z, and I needed to read all 10 of those! Working hard to get my posts ready, and can't wait for the fun to begin!

G said...

very cool tips....I really need to start getting organised for this

Nicole said...

Good tip! It's really getting down to the wire with the organizing and planning posts for the A to Z Challenge.

Congratulations to Rachel Morgan for winning the A to Z video challenge!


Blogging at The Madlab Post while socializing @MadlabPost on Twitter.

Christine Rains said...

Congratulations Rachel! Great tips.

Gail M Baugniet - Author said...

Congrats to Rachel for her clever video. (Sorry, Rach, we have the same word for "V" day!)

I switched word verification off for my blog. Under that is "Show Backlinks" and I'm wondering if that should be 'show' or 'hide'.

When the Blogger format changed I panicked. I no longer had the option to attach photos or format my posts. After a few days, all the format options reappeared. What a scare just weeks before the A to Z Challenge.

Queen Bee said...

Oh, super WOW! I am in love with this blog!!

Ro @ Eat Live Move said...

I think it's important to not lose sight of the joy of blogging during this challenge. I can really appreciate Sommer's suggestion about taking a breath and NOT taking posts and comments so seriously. Great advice!

I'm counting down...

Empty Nest Insider said...

Congrats to Rachel for her AMAZING video! Thanks Sommer for the terrific tips! Hope to see you both in April! Julie

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

WOO HOO! That there was some fine moviemaking, Mizz Rachel! Congrats! It was really, really fun!
And Sommer, I am practising my poise. Will balancing Alex's books on my head help? :)

Tyrean Martinson said...

Loved the old fashioned "charlie chaplin" feel to the winning video! Very cool!!!

Ella said...

Congrats Rachel! Great tips~
I have two plans, but need to narrow my focus...nothing knew for me, lol

Mary Aalgaard said...

Love the music in your video and all the great words!

PR said...

Congrats Rachel. Thanks for these awesome tips, I feel a lot calmer now! The hosts are doing an excellent job :)

Julie Jordan Scott said...

Absolutely fantastic information. It makes my Spring "Pre-AtoZ-Challenge" cleaning so much easier!!

Thank you so much!!

Laura Josephsen said...

Congrats to Rachel; that was a super fun video. :D

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Tina said...

Awesome post. You gave a lot of good info, and I think it's the kind that's going to make readers slow down a bit and think about what it is they want out of blogging. Is it a high number of followers? Is is bloggy friends? There's no problem with perhaps having a different agenda, but be honest about it.
My favorite advice was the piece about how to make it easy to respond. I wrote a piece in our FAQ about displaying your email so others can easily jot off an email to you.

Tina @ Life is Good
Co-Host of the April A to Z Challenge
Twitter: @AprilA2Z #atozchallenge

Shannon Lawrence said...

Great tips! Very thoroughly covered. Thanks!

Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the 2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

Sommer Leigh said...

Awesome! I stepped away from the internet just at the wrong time, but I'm thrilled to come back and see this post! I'm glad everyone enjoyed the tips. Thank you A to Z hosts for all your hard work! Can't wait until April 1st.