Monday, February 27, 2017

8 Common Misconceptions About the #AtoZChallenge

Today I'm going to debunk the most common misconceptions about the A to Z blogging challenge.

1- Just adding my link is enough.

  • No. It’s a hop. You post and you visit others who have posted. We interact with one another and cultivate new relationships.
  • Leaving comments — It's what bloggers do for each other. How important is it to you to be a valued member of the blogging community?

2- The A to Z Team list is just names on the blog. Hosts don’t do anything.

  • WRONG. The hosts are here year round keeping the blog alive. We spend April helping all the participants. It’s hard work. It’s a second job that pays no money. We are not just names, we are people who care that this a supportive, safe, and productive blogging community.

3- The site is only up in April.

  • Nope. It’s here all year. There are less posts in the off-seasons, but the content is still interesting. You should follow this blog and check for updates regularly.

4- No one will notice if I bend or break a rule…

  • The hosts are dedicated to noticing and acting fast.

5- Everyone has a theme but me.

  • Nah. About 30% of the blogs in the challenge go without a theme to tie their posts together… other than the alphabet, of course!

6- There’s no reason I should advertise the challenge on my blog.

  • First, it’s not exactly advertising. It’s saying you participate, that you are part of our community. It shows off your blogging dedication, even if you only blog in April.
  • Second, it’s spreading the word about the challenge, which brings everyone more views and comments.
  • Third, it’s how others in the blog hop know they have come to the right place. It’s an assurance.

7- I’m going to get so much email junk from this challenge!

  • I have been doing this challenge for six years. In all that time, and in commenting at about 1,000 blogs last year alone, I have received only ONE spam message. If you're still worried, create a separate email account. (I have one for hops, one for general, one for classes, and one for business. It's an old organization trick.) Be mindful of check-boxes that sign you up for replies or notices. Consider that you might enjoy some of the emails. Learn to use services such as BlogLovin' to keep up with your favorite blogs.

8- This is only for professionals.

  • Most of the participants in the challenge are not professional bloggers. A few are professionals in their field who also blog. There are plenty of good people here who are new to blogging or who blog only as a hobby. We welcome everyone. Bonus -- the hosts are a wealth of knowledge for newbie bloggers!

by J Lenni Dorner
Reference and Speculative Fiction Author
A to Z Challenge Co-Host
Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight Organizer
Please visit the blog of @JLenniDorner Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight Organizer @JLenniDornerFollow @JLenniDorner on Twitter please WhatAreThey on Facebook pages

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Books Resulting from the #AtoZchallenge

A friend of mine shared a book with me that was written because of the A to Z challenge. It contains a selection of alphabet-themed short stories that were originally written for and published on a blog during the A to Z challenge.

My own reference book was originally written as A to Z posts. This has me wondering — how many of us have books out there for sale right now that exist as a direct result of this wonderful blogging challenge?


(Links should go to Amazon, Smashwords, Goodreads, or other such websites where your A to Z book is for sale.)

What else has participation in the challenge resulted in creating? Is there artwork thanks to the challenge? Games, new recipes, or a travel itinerary perhaps? Talk about it in the comments, please!

by J Lenni Dorner
Reference and Speculative Fiction Author
A to Z Challenge Co-Host
Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight Organizer
Please visit the blog of @JLenniDorner Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight Organizer @JLenniDornerFollow @JLenniDorner on Twitter please WhatAreThey on Facebook pages

Monday, February 20, 2017

List Free A to Z - Why and How to Make it Work #atozchallenge

Making a List Free Challenge Work:

There have been a lot of concerns regarding the absence of the Linky List this year. How will the new system work? How will I know who is participating? Why isn’t the list being used this year?

That last question has several answers. It wasn’t an easy decision to go list-free, but it was the right one. Here’s why:

The Linky List is massive – and overwhelming. Many have stated they stare at the thousand-plus blogs on the list and don’t know where to begin. Now there won’t be an intimidating giant list.

A lot of people sign up who don’t participate. Some sign up and then life just gets in the way. Some post a few letters and then quit. Some sign up just to get more traffic to their site. Some are just out-and-out spammers. Under the new system, you won’t encounter those people.

This list is time consuming to maintain – and a bit soul-sucking. To understand the man hours required, this was the process:
  • The co-hosts’ minions/helpers visited a certain section of the list and reported back non-participants.
  • The co-host had to confirm each blog reported by visiting it.
  • The co-host then had to list all blogs that required either removal or adjustment on another list.
  • The List Master (which for the past seven years has been me) had to go through the lists from a dozen co-hosts every day and remove/fix links, a process that never took less than an hour.
  • This process wasn’t limited to April – culling the list of ad sites and spammers started in February.
You can see where that might suck the joy out of visiting other blogs.

Finally, there are just not enough co-hosts this year to maintain a list of that magnitude.

So, how will it work?

Before the Challenge begins, we will have a post or two where people can comment and announce their intent to participate. At that time, you can visit some and add to your Feedly reader, Bloglovin’, sidebar, or other location.

Every day during the Challenge, there will be a post at the A to Z Blog with the letter of the day. There will also be one at the A to Z Facebook Group. Once you have posted for the day, copy that link and leave a comment here or at the Facebook group. Then, start visiting others who have also left a comment, either that day or the day or two before.

You can Tweet your link with the hashtag #atozchallenge and look for others doing the same – and visit those people. (A to Z Twitter)

Once you start finding blogs you enjoy, make a list in your blog reader, sidebar, or even just copy the link into Word.

So, it’s not as difficult as it sounds. You can even include your theme when you post your link, which will be even better than the old codes from the Linky Lists of the past.

While this sounds like a huge and earth shattering change, it actually goes back to our roots. Because that very first A to Z Challenge in 2010 had no Linky List. Founder Arlee Bird just added everyone who commented they were participating into his sidebar and we all visited each other from that. And you know, that small scale made a huge difference, as many of us formed friendships that have lasted over the years.

So don’t fear the lack of a list – embrace it!

Any questions? Hot Tamales candy welcome.

Co-host Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh is the author of Amazon Best-sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars, founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, and his blog can be found HERE

Friday, February 17, 2017

Why I Love #AtoZChallenge (And You Should, Too!)

I started my blog so that I could join the A to Z challenge. I happened upon it while stumbling around the web. Blogging wasn’t something I considered doing before. I thought blogs were either public journals or sale pages in a nice disguise. The A to Z challenge opened up a new world for me. I discovered not only the different types of blogs, but that there is a community here. Most of my online friendships were born as a result of the A to Z challenge. Nearly all of the blogs I follow take part or have taken part in the challenge. When I’m looking for an expert in a certain area, I go back to the challenge blog and start my search there. (This has worked surprisingly well.) Planning posts for the challenge resulted in my publishing a reference book. Even though many of us are exhausted by the end of April, we look back with fond memories and find ourselves grateful to have taken part.

Friendships are easier to cultivate when people start with a common ground. The thousands of us in the A to Z challenge all have a blog and have all signed up for this blog hop. The challenge provides a conversation starter. (“Are you enjoying blogging from A to Z?”) Each post gives an opportunity to get to know someone better. Every comment is a chance to engage with someone online.

Community is born out of blog hops like this one. We have the common interest of blogging and the common goal of getting to know other bloggers while increasing our own blog’s views. When you sign up for the A to Z Challenge, you essentially move into this online neighborhood. The hosts are like the community homeowners association, in that they keep the blog running and are here for support. We care for each other at the A to Z challenge. Bloggers who want to connect with and support each other will always belong here. Together we have a positive influence on each other. The A to Z challenge isn’t just another blog hop— it’s a shared experience that leads to shared history.

Knowledge is a lifelong quest. With so many bloggers in this challenge, it’s almost impossible not to learn something new when you hop from one blog to the next. The discoveries made during the challenge lead to an increase in social network sharing. People often enjoy telling a friend about a new recipe they found, a book they now want to read, a previously unheard of place to visit, a song that’s a new favorite, a tip that’s going to make life easier, etc. We can positively associate the A to Z challenge with fun learning and personal growth opportunities.

Goal Achievement is important. The best A to Z challenge participants want to see everyone here succeed and have their needs met. Our Twitter chats usually include people offering links to blogs that have almost no comments. We want April to be a month where everyone not only has an alphabet of posts, but also feels they’ve been engaged with by peers. Many find they love the challenge more when setting the following goals:

  • Having a post for every A to Z day 
  • Commenting on a set number of other blogs 
  • Replying to received comments 
  • Connecting by following blogs 
  • Connecting through other social media

What are your goals during the A to Z challenge? What do you love most about this blog hop?

by J Lenni Dorner
Reference and Speculative Fiction Author
A to Z Challenge Co-Host
Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight Organizer
Please visit the blog of @JLenniDorner Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight Organizer @JLenniDornerFollow @JLenniDorner on Twitter please WhatAreThey on Facebook pages

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Tutorial: Creating Clickable Links In Comments

As we were testing the process of leaving links in the comment section, we made the discovery that, if you simply paste the URL into the comment, it's treated as text and isn't clickable. In this tutorial, we'll show you how to make a clickable link under the Blogger platform (the one we're using now) and also how to make a signature block for your comments on the Blogger platform so people can visit you at your blog.

This is the format of the link:

<a href="URL of your post">LINK</a>

When you want to add your link in a comment to one of the daily letter posts, do this:

  1. Copy the line above. You might want to put it in a Notepad file, because you're going to use it frequently during the Challenge.
  2. Paste the line into a new comment.
  3. Copy the address (the URL) from the address bar for your latest post. Be sure to open it in a new tab or window; you don't want to lose the line of code you pasted in the comment.
  4. Delete the words URL of your post from the line you pasted into the comment. Then, paste the URL of your post between the quotes.
  5. Optional but highly recommended: Change the word LINK to the title of your post or some other text letting us know what it is.
  6. Post the comment by clicking the Publish button.

If you've done everything correctly, your link should look similar to this:

<a href="">Advertainment</a>

And your comment should look like this:

Go ahead and click on it; it'll take you to my first A to Z Challenge post from last year.

Many users, particularly Blogger ones, add a "signature" with their name and a link to their blog at the end of the post. Here's what mine looks like:

John Holton
The Sound Of One Hand Typing

Here is the code to do that:

----------<br />
*your name*<br />
<a href="*your blog's URL*">*your blog's name*</a>

I'll have a video that demonstrates all of this shortly. Stay tuned!

Feel free to practice below using these templates for the link to your post and your signature. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments.

Friday, February 10, 2017

No list? No problem! #atozchallenge

Hello, A to Z peeps.

So, it was a really big announcement the A to Z Team had for you this past Monday.

The A to Z Challenge, without a sign-up list.

Please believe us when we tell you that this decision was not an easy one.

The list was completely overwhelming for the Team and not properly maintaining it, is just not acceptable for us.

We know it might be a little frightening. Maybe a little inconvenient. Maybe even a few extra minutes a day, but we're hoping you'll still give the Challenge a chance.

Please stay tuned to the blog. We're going to work out some kinks. We're going to listen to suggestions. We're going to make sure that all the participants know the what, when, where, why, and how's.

Thank you for sticking with us.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Announcing: The 2017 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge! #atozchallenge

From reading your blogs and what we've seen on Facebook and Twitter, people are really looking forward to the 2017 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, and we're sure those of you who are veterans of the Challenge know that it's about this time that we make The List available for people to sign up so that everyone knows they plan on doing the challenge this year.
Those of us on the A to Z Team have been talking about preparations for this year's challenge, and one of the things we've discussed is The List. The truth is, The List is a lot of work, and we have fewer people to check the list and maintain it so that the only people who are on it are the ones actively participating. Our focus changes from the people who are actively participating to those who aren't, and that isn't fair.
We came up with a great solution to this:
  • Each day of the Challenge, we'll add a post with the letter of the day to the A to Z Challenge blog. When you've posted your entry to your blog, post a comment to the Challenge blog with a link to that day's post on your blog.
  • We'll also add a status update to our Facebook page each day with that day's letter. You may also post a link to your daily post as a comment to the latter post, either in addition to or instead of posting the link to the Challenge blog.
  • And, we encourage you to post a tweet to Twitter with a link to your blog post. Be sure you add the hashtag #atozchallenge to your tweet, so we can find you.
The advantage to this, for us, is that we don't have The List to maintain. The advantage to you is that you'll only see the people who are actually participating in the Challenge that day, so you won't waste your time going to blogs that said they would participate when they signed up in February or March, but who have changed their minds by April first, or who have had to leave the Challenge because life got in the way.
"But wait," you say, "what about the theme reveal?"
The Theme Reveal will start on March 20. We'll add a post on that day to which you can comment with the link to your theme reveal post. Again, no sign-up list, just add your links to the blog, the FB page, and use the hashtag #AtoZReveal on Twitter to share.

Important Links
Since this April has five Sundays, April 30 will be a posting day. The letter for each day is:

1 - A

3 - B
4 - C
5 - D
6 - E
7 - F
8 - G

10 - H
11 - I
12 - J
13 - K
14 - L
15 - M

17 - N
18 - O
19 - P
20 - Q
21 - R
22 - S

24 - T
25 - U
26 - V
27 - W
28 - X
29 - Y
30 - Z

The A to Z Challenge is a great opportunity for you to find new blogs and meet new bloggers, and we want to make commenting as simple as possible, so we'd like to make a couple of requests:
  1. Please disable comment moderation for the duration of the Challenge, including the theme reveal. We understand it's a way to prevent spammers from posting comments, but a commenter might see the message that their comment will be visible after approval as a sign that you don't trust them.
  2. Also, please disable word verification (CAPTCHA) for the duration of the Challenge. Some visitors might have trouble reading the characters and decide leaving a comment isn't worth the effort.
We're looking forward to this year's A to Z Challenge, and we're happy you're looking forward to it, too! We think the changes we've made will make it more fun and easier to participate in. If you have any questions or concerns, leave us a comment.