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