Where's the sign-up List?

For the 2017 Challenge we're trying something new--no Linky List! So if you're looking for a list--stop now. It's really not so bad. Now you'll have many options for discovering participant blogs--blogs that are actually participating in the Challenge. For more info click on the link at the top of the sidebar on the right hand side of your page.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Why We Love Comment Signatures (And You Should, Too!)

Those who participate in a blog hop are looking to connect with others. A link in your signature makes that faster and easier. It helps the blogger connect with you by making it easier to find your blog. This strategy increases social relationships with other A to Z bloggers. In addition to your (hopefully hyperlinked) name, consider adding a few words to identify yourself. (The hashtag #insixwords is a good source of inspiration.) Here’s my example:

J -- Co-host for the #AtoZchallenge, Debut Author Interviewer, Reference and Speculative Fiction Writer http://jlennidornerblog.what-are-they.com

Based just on the signature, you now know five facts about me.
  • You know I go by the name J.
  • You know who I am in relation to you. (We are both in the challenge.)
  • You know something I enjoy doing — interviewing debut authors. (If you know one, this would spark a conversation.)
  • You know what I do for a living. This too might spark a conversation.
  • You know how to reach me because you have a link to my blog.

Now I’m not just another commenter. I’m the writer who interviews debut authors and volunteers for the blogging challenge we’re both into.

Signature mindmap for @JLENNIDORNER
Brains like lists. It’s natural for memories to form based on information gathered about a person. “Someone left a comment,” isn’t as memorable as, “someone with a common interest left a comment,” or, “someone with a unique job left a comment.”

Your comment (when it’s meaningful, adds to the conversation, is thought provoking, or is funny) is your first opportunity to be memorable. Your signature is the second.

A to Z bloggers have come to expect a hyperlink signature in comments. There are at least four instructional posts on the blog:

The purpose of the challenge is not only to promote your blog, but also to increase your social network. Someone who leaves a link in their signature is someone who is ready to communicate and engage. It’s easier to find someone who left an engaging comment or thought provoking question if the person dropped a breadcrumb trail. There isn’t always time to do a websearch for people. A hyperlinked signature is a calling card or business card in the blogging world. A hyperlinked signature is an invitation to form a relationship. This is why it’s a good way to concluded your comment.

What about comment boxes with a separate area for links?
Comment Sample image
In this case, leaving your link there instead of in the comment itself is acceptable.

Cultivate relationships online by including a signature with brief details about yourself and a link to you following your meaningful, valuable comment.

Plant the seed of social networking growth by including your hyperlinked signature.

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, March 22, 2017

If the List Doesn't Exist...#atozchallenge

         What?!!   No list?!!

          Judging by the Theme Reveal test run it seems a good many of you had no problem working without a list.   After all, it's nothing like walking a high wire without a net.  No list ain't gonna kill ya!  And, by golly, the Theme Reveal proved that!

            I can't say for sure because I didn't count, but by all estimations it appears that well over 200 bloggers participated in the Theme Reveal event as of my writing of this post on Tuesday afternoon where I am in Pacific Daylight Time.  And that count is just estimated from the comments on this blog.  There were also theme reveal links left on other social media outlets.  I'm not sure how this all measures up to the over 500 links that typically appeared on the Linky sign ups from previous years, but one good thing is that everybody who did leave a link left a link to a blog that was actually participating.  So in my view that's not too bad.   I'd call the Theme Reveal a success and an good indicator that those participating in A to Z 2017 will catch on just fine.

           However if there is still trepidation with any of you about participating in the upcoming A to Z Blogging Challenge without a list, never fear for I am here with some consolation and a few hopefully helpful suggestions.

There Is A List If You Look For It

         Actually there are many lists available to you if you aren't on the social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook.   Those platforms will provide all the links most of us can handle in a day's time, but some of you just don't like to be on any sites like that and I can't say that I blame you for feeling that way.  However, there are many other ways to find A to Z Challenge participants.

          You can find a lot of A to Z participants by going to some of the blogs of other participants you already know and going through their comment sections and visiting the blogs of those who commented.  This is a way to meet other bloggers with similar interests even if you aren't doing A to Z.  A well frequented comment section can keep a person busy for a good while.  You might not always find A to Z participants, but you might make some other new blogger friends.
         Use a search engine to search terms like Blogging from A to Z 2017 or #atozchallenge.  This can be work, but it can also yield interesting results.  After all search engines like Google provide the biggest lists around. You might have to weed through all sorts of results, but if you're a search engine (Google) fanatic like I've become you might enjoy this method

         Look for other bloggers who have set up their own lists.  The blog community site Blog Chatter has a list of bloggers who are participating.  Other bloggers might have compiled similar lists on sidebars or on special pages--keep your eyes open for these (if you have one on your own blog you can leave a comment below with your link).   I've started one on my own site and intend to continue adding more blog links as I blog through April.  My link list can be found at Tossing It Out. I doubt whether I'll be able to keep it loaded with every participating blogger, but this is my experiment.  Maybe you'll want to try compiling your own list.

         Use a blog reader app such as Feedly.  This is something I've never gotten the hang of using, but I know many of you probably already use this method.  I sometimes used to use the reader Blogger had on its site and found it to be helpful when I remembered to use it.  Maybe some of you more adept at using readers can offer some more help in the comments.

Sometimes Work Is Involved!

       Even with the Linky List we sometimes had to weed through blogs we didn't want to read or that weren't participating or had fallen behind.  Successful blogging does sometimes require doing some of your own work.   Not all of you have that much time to spend on blogging so I understand the desire for shortcuts.  The fact remains that effective blogging requires effort.

       If you've ever wondered why you don't get many comments or it doesn't seem like you get many blog visitors, it's mainly because you aren't promoting your blog enough and not visiting other bloggers like you need to in order to get reciprocated visits to your own site.  I learned this early on in blogging.  In fact that's why A to Z began and that's how I made it grow.

       As Alex J Cavanaugh stated in an earlier post on the A to Z Blog, when I started the very first A to Z Challenge in 2010 there was no Linky List.  I created a sidebar list using some of the methods I've outlined above.  This required work on my part, but it was worthwhile.  Just look where we are now.  You think Blogging from A to Z in April is too difficult?   Well, it can be.  But if you do it right, do it with a method to your madness, use practical approaches, and pay attention to what is going on, then you'll find that it might be easier than you thought and it can be actually fun.

      After all, I called A to Z a Challenge for good reason.  My Challenge to myself was a way that I learned a great deal about blogging and networking.  I extended that Challenge to others and they came and they too conquered that Challenge.  You can do it too.

      If you're still concerned about not having that Linky list to lean on, then think again.  The lists are there and if you don't like the lists you see then create your own.  This is called customization.  You decide what kind of list will suit your needs and then make your list out of the lists that exist.  They exist everywhere if you look for them and you don't have to look that hard.

       This year's A to Z will work and it will work well.  You might have to do it your way just the way I did it my way that very first year, but this is all a learning process.  Blogging starts with expressing yourself.  If you want to share what you've expressed then you will have to do some networking.  A to Z is about networking.  That's how it started and that's how it still is.

         Are you ready to network?   Fine--follow the advice I've laid out in this post.  And if none of this makes much sense to you and you'd still like to Blog from A to Z in April?  That's fine too.  Just blog like you always blog, but pay closer attention to what's going on with others and with the action on your own blog.  This is all a learning process.  But it's also fun.  Don't worry. Don't stress.  Just blog.



Sunday, March 19, 2017

#AtoZChallenge The Great and Powerful A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal!

Every year since 2013, it has been a tradition for A to Z participants to reveal their Challenge themes ahead of time - on a day we lovingly titled The Great And Powerful Theme Reveal! With less than two weeks left before the Challenge begins, that day - IS TODAY!

One of the most burning questions participants ask themselves every year is: "Should I have a theme?" Themes are not mandatory, but definitely fun. They let your visitors know what to expect, create excitement and anticipation, and help you write posts that line neatly up from A to Z.

Four years ago A to Z participant Mina Lobo started the Theme Reveal, and we thought it was such a great idea that we made it tradition. It is now our very own, grand and festive way of rolling out our themes together!

As you probably already know, this year we are doing the Challenge without a Linky list. This means that people will be posting the links to their posts each day here on the blog, as well as on social media (see the details here!). Today is your chance to practice! Post your link to your theme reveal in the Comments, and visit others who have commented before you!

Most important of all: Have fun with your theme! We know we will!