Create If Writing - Authentic Platform Building for Writers & Bloggers

Create If Writing is a weekly podcast for writers and bloggers dealing with authentic platform growth. Kirsten Oliphant interviews experts to find out how they are building email lists, connecting through Twitter, and using Facebook groups. These practical episodes are balanced out with inspirational interviews from successful writers and bloggers who have made it big and want to share the struggles, the creative process, and tips for reaching your goals whether you are an author publishing books or creating an online presence through blogging.
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Now displaying: November, 2016
Nov 28, 2016

Affiliate sales can be a lucrative revenue stream, especially during the holiday season. If you aren't using affiliate marketing, this means that you are recommending another person or company's product and will get a commission upon sales. Sometimes it can be hard to get started, so here are my best tips for affiliate marketing.

This post contains affiliate links! This means at no extra cost to you, any purchases made through links in the post may result in a commission for me. Thanks for your support!

Thanks to the sponsor of the show, Go Lance! Need a virtual assistant or copywriter? Many people use Facebook groups to find and hire help. But there aren't ratings and reviews. Every few days, I see a post warning people against using a certain person who didn't do their work as promised. With Go Lance, you can see how many hours people have worked and read reviews of their work. Sound good? Set up a free account today with Go Lance

Thanks also to Jasmine Commerce for the music for the show!



Look for affiliate programs for the things you already use. 

So many different tools, apps, and courses have affiliate programs. Make a list of the things you use, from web hosting to your note-taking apps. Once you have a list of the things you use, check to see if they have an affiliate program. Usually this will be listed somewhere on the website. If not, google it or email the contact person. 

When you get an email about a course or program you like, ask if there is an affiliate program.

A few times this year I received emails about courses or summits that were a great fit for my audience. I hit reply and asked if they had an affiliate program because the promotion would be  perfect for my people. Sometimes programs are only open to people who have purchased them. But other times, the creators are open to interested people. When in doubt, ask. 

Decide what kind of products & courses you will promote. 

Some people will only promote things they have or currently do use. I like to promote things that I have used in the past, use now, or are from someone that I trust enough to recommend without actually using or taking them. There are VERY few people I trust that much. You should decide what feels right for YOU. The programs and items you recommend should be things that you can stand behind or you may risk the trust of your audience. 

You will make the best affiliate for products that you are PASSIONATE about. [tweetthis twitter_handles="@kikimojo" display_mode="box"]You will make the best affiliate for things you are passionate about.[/tweetthis]

Do a mix of evergreen and promotional affiliate sales. 

Evergreen products or programs are things like items on Amazon. They are available at all times (though prices may fluctuate). Promotional products are things like courses that open or close, bundles that are limited times, or sales for specific days. Often the promotional launches will have a larger-scale affiliate program where you'll get daily emails and sales copy that are designed to help you sell. Which leads me to the next tip.

Plan promotional launches on your calendar so you aren't all promo, ALL the time. 

Especially when it comes to big launches of courses or larger products, you don't want to layer too many on top of each other. If you are launching your own products too, you especially need to watch out for this. Try to plan out what launches will happen when (most course creators know months or a year ahead of time when they will run promotions) and put that on your calendar so it doesn't get too crowed. 

Offer an opt-out in your email. 

When you are running promotional affiliate sales over a period of time that will have multiple emails, offer your readers an opt-out. Depending on your email service provider, this may not be possible. In ConvertKit, I simply create a link with a tag that will automatically attach to that person's email. Then when I send the next promotions, I can exclude the tag from people who aren't interested in the promotion. This will cut down on the number of unsubscribes. (Read more about why I love ConvertKit!)


For more on this, listen to episode 33. But in short, when it comes to affiliate marketing, you must disclose. This means that in your social media links, you will use a word like ad or affiliate or sponsored. NOT "aff" or "afflink" or "spon." Those words are not clear to the general masses. Your disclosure should be clear to people who don't know what affiliate marketing is. In a blog post you should have a statement before any outgoing affiliate links where you state that any sales made by clicking through links may result in a commission for you at no extra cost to them. If you want a longer disclosure explanation, you can have a post and link to that post, but you still need to have a statement that is clearly understood in your post, not simply a link to a post about disclosure. Read a great breakdown of the FTC rules on disclosure here

Looking for some good affiliate programs? 

  • ConvertKit (an email service provider)
  • Site Ground (a web host- this is my affiliate link!)
  • AppSumo (has deals on apps and programs-- gives credit, not cash)
  • Affiliate Window (a central program with many brands within it)
  • Share-a-Sale (same as above- this is my affiliate link!)
  • CJ (same as above)
  • Ultimate Bundles (sells bundles of digital and physical products a few times a year -- this is my affiliate link)
  • Amazon (offers a low commission and a short-lived cookie, but has tons of products many people use)


ConvertKit is having a special November 28 & 29! You can get one month free, plus a month of Meet Edgar, a month of Teachable, 6o days of Samcart, 45 days of Wistia, and a ConvertKit tee. Get your free bundle here! (This is my affiliate link!)

SiteGround is offering 70% off hosting through Monday! If you're tired of having your site down with Blue Host (that was the story of my life! Use Down Notifier to make sure your sites are up), then switch to Site Ground. They'll even move you! Sign up for the hosting deal here! (This is my affiliate link!)

The Foundation Series is 50% off through the end of November 28. That's only $24 for over four hours of workshops helping you bring clarity to your blog, email list, social media, and images. Use the code blackcyber. 

I've opened up the beta price of the Create If Community Membership through the end of November 28. Use the code BETA to get grandfathered into the membership price. Find out more and sign up for the Create If Community Membership here!

What are your best tips for affiliate marketing? Leave them in the comments!

Nov 21, 2016

Blog traffic is useless. Traffic is nothing but empty numbers of people who have stopped by your page. And if that's all that happens---stopping by---then traffic is useless. But if you can figure out how to optimize that traffic and get them to DO something, then you can really get the most out of those blog visits with some help from Melyssa Griffin!

This episode is sponsored by GoLance! If you do freelance ANYTHING, you need to check this global platform where you can post your profile OR look for people to hire for some of those jobs you need to outsource. It's free to sign up and post. Get after it!

Connect with Melyssa on her blog, Melyssa Griffin, or on Pinterest, YouTube, or in her awesome Facebook group

How to Optimize Blog Traffic

Where Does Traffic Come From?

If you break it down, traffic comes either through social sharing (like Facebook) or through search (like Google). Pinterest, though often considered a social platform, is actually more of a search engine or discovery platform. Once people realize this and apply strategies geared toward search & discoverability, they can find much better results from Pinterest. You need a strategy that is current because SEO changes on a almost a yearly basis. 

What Kinds of Strategies Can Help You with Search Traffic? 

Platforms like Facebook or Instagram are more about engaging and inspiring content, while search traffic is more about answering a question or solving a problem. If you want to have traffic from search engines, make every blog post solve a problem. Google likes lengthy, meaty articles that solve problems that they can have show up in their search results.

The benefit of focusing on search is that when Google or Pinterest update their algorithms, it's to try to help people get more relevant answers. (As opposed to something like Facebook, who SAYS that it's about relevant content, but is very much about getting people to pay for things to be seen on their page.) 

Tips for Writing for Search Engines

  • Find what questions people have. 
  • Find the words they are using to search for answers to this problem. (Use the Google Keyword Planner, Google Trends, or Buzz Sumo.)
  • Chose a keyword phrase. 
  • Use that keyword phrase in your title, the blog post content (1-2% of how many words are in your post), headlines in your post (the H1, H2 settings), in the meta description, as the image description, and as the url. It should feel natural, not like keywords stuffed into a post.

Additional Tips for Pinterest Traffic

  • Create a Vertical Image with post name over the image
  • Use the keywords in the pin description. (Update the alt tag of the image in your blog post so that YOUR pin description with the keyword will show up when people click pin it.)
  • Use the keywords in the board descriptions for the board you are using (if that makes sense for your board)

What Can You Do to Harness the Power of Traffic? 

If you don't DO anything with your traffic, there is no guarantee that people come to your site once will ever come back. Once people are on your website, you want them to take an action once they are on your site. Melyssa's number one recommendation is to grow your email list. Social media doesn't have the permanency or the intimacy of what an email list has. You OWN those emails, whereas your social followers are out of your control. (If you need more on how to use email, check out the Free Email Course!)

Tips for Getting People on Your List

  • Have an email subscription form before people have to scroll on your page
  • Make it easy for them to opt into your list
  • Incorporate content upgrades in posts

Content upgrades are specific downloads tied to a particular blog post. You can create these thinking about what the next step for people that should be taking after the blog post. Create something that will help them get to that point. It can be super simple, like a checklist or a helpful calendar or outline. Use a button in your post and something like LeadPages to get people to sign up.

Melyssa's Tip for the Welcome Email - Be really clear in your first email (or emails if you are doing a sequence) about who you are and the kind of content that you write. Share content that gives them a clear picture of who you are. And then ASK THEM TO UNSUBSCRIBE. The psychology behind this is that if they stay, it's more of a commitment and more of confirmation that they DO want to be a part of your list. This also gives an easy out for the people who don't feel like they are a good fit. 

Tools for Capturing Emails

SumoMe - has welcome mats and other pop-up options

ConvertKit - an email service provider with advanced features (read why I love Convertkit!)

OptinMonster - can A/B test the opt-ins on our site

[My Recommendation is Popup Ally Pro, which gives you 12 different kinds of opt-ins, from welcome mats to pop ups to smart bars. You can also choose whether you want them to show on both desktop and mobile or choose only one or the other! Check them out with my affiliate link HERE.]

Nov 14, 2016

Despite the fact that I say every week on the podcast that my audience is writers, bloggers, and creatives, today I'm going to talk about why you DON'T need a blog. No, REALLY. This may go against a lot of common advice, but I think it also relates to the current state of the internet as well as common sense. So, should YOU be blogging? Let's find out!

Listen to Episode 75 - Why You DON'T Need a Blog

This episode is sponsored by GoLance! If you do freelance ANYTHING, you need to check this global platform where you can post your profile OR look for people to hire for some of those jobs you need to outsource. It's free to sign up and post. Get after it!

Why You DON'T Need a Blog

The common advice if you want to make money online is to start a blog. If you want to publish a book, often you will hear that you need to start a blog. WHATEVER IT IS YOU ARE TRYING TO DO ONLINE, people will tell you that you need a blog. But DO you actually need a blog? 

Maybe. But maybe not. 

Before you decide if you need a blog or not, you need to consider your WHY. There are really two things you need to think about this: your end goal in terms of what you want to DO as well as what you want to get OUT of it. In other words, consider what you want to be doing and what the benefits of that thing will be. 

An example would be that you may want to be a writer as your end goal. Your benefit could be that you make a full-time living. OR maybe you want to be a writer, but you mostly care about seeing your books in the hands of readers, not so much about the finances. 

Before you can answer the question of IF you should blog, you need to know the WHY. You should also know what a blog is and what it can or cannot do. So let's take 20 steps back to the history of the blog. 

The History of Blogging 

"Blog" actually comes from the term "web log," which referred to the earliest days of the world wide web as we know it in the 1990s. Livejournal and Blogger became two very popular platforms, launching in 1999. 

2003 saw the launch of Wordpress and Google Adsense, two huge moves. Wordpress would eventually grow to overtake Blogger (which Google purchased in 2002) as a blogging platform. Adsense brought in the idea of monetization, which would gradually and continually shift the nature of blogs. 

In 2005, the first blogger was granted White House Press credentials, marking a shift and a blurred line between blogging and news reporting. The launch of The Huffington Post that same year only solidified this opening of the blog space to include more editorial and news angles than simply the personal. 

With the arrival of Facebook in 2004 and Twitter in 2006, people began engaging on these social platforms in addition to blogs. Soon people used these platforms as vehicles to promote blog posts as well. This plus the Panda update in Google brought the gradual end to the age of "if you write it, readers will come." 

The 2009 film Julie & Julia became one of the first mainstream pop culture references to blogging as something that provide and income and personal success. By 2010, 11% of bloggers were earning their primary income through blogging. 

The past five or so years have seen the rise of more and more blogs as viable income streams and other social media platforms as microblogs, also able to provide an income. Blogs are now much more indistinguishable from web SITES, a far cry from their roots as online diaries. 

For a much more comprehensive timeline of blogging, check out this post from Hubspot!

Why You MIGHT Need a Blog

  • You love the blogging platform
  • Your end goal is to be a BLOGGER and bring in income through a blog
  • You have the time and ability (and enjoy) doing all the social media-building and promoting that goes along with a blog

Why a Blog Might NOT Be the Right Choice for You

  • If your end goal is NOT blogging
  • If you don't have the time to write a blog PLUS do all the things that will drive readers to your blog
  • If you don't love writing a blog
  • If a blog takes the time away from your WHY (as in, if you are so busy blogging that you can't write your book)
  • If you don't have the money or effort or know-how to create a professional blog

Blogging vs Alternative Ideas

A blog can be a vehicle for platform-building. But it may not be the BEST vehicle for you, depending on your goals and how you feel about blogging and all that goes along with it. 

Social media of some kind is a MUST. But rather than simply use it as a vehicle to promote your blog, you could use a particular social media platform INSTEAD of a blog. It could be your main platform and way of connecting with readers. (Check out my Seriously Simple Social Media Guide to help you figure out which platform you need.) 

You can also use other people's platforms. (Read my tips on  leveraging the power of someone else's platform!) Write guest posts or write posts on Medium. Become a contributor on a large site. Apply to have your posts go up on the Huffington Post. 

Consider your best medium. Maybe that's NOT writing. Perhaps it's video. Or more specifically, LIVE video vs edited videos. Maybe you love audio and want to launch a podcast as your main platform and way of connecting readers. 

A Website vs a Blog

If you choose NOT to blog or to use another platform, you DO need a website. Many blogs look like websites these days, so I'll be clear about what you need in terms of a website. 

  • A static home page with info about your & an opt-in to your email list
  • A contact page
  • A page about your books, your speaking, or the main thing you do
  • Links to your social platforms
  • A blog page -  IF YOU WANT ONE


Is a blog right for you? Maybe. Maybe not. Circle back to your goals and your why. The blogosphere is really crowded and a lot of work these days to get traffic and find readers. Which may mean that a blog would take way more time than what results it would bring back. It simply may not be the best vehicle for what you want. 

If you haven't started a blog yet, I might recommend getting your static site up and then considering guest posting or focusing on another social platform that might have an easier entry point than a blog. 

So do YOU need a blog? Leave a comment to let me know what you think about the idea of blogging or NOT blogging. 

Nov 7, 2016

When I graduated with an MFA in Fiction in 2007, the publishing landscape was totally different. In fact, traditional publishing and indie publishing were not locked in the awkward battle they are today. Indie publishing was not really a thing. There was only self-publishing, which was viewed as vanity publishing and generally disdained. You only published your own work if you weren't good enough to get published and not realistic enough to admit that to yourself. You would pay a lot of money up front for 500 copies of your book, which might gather dust in your basement. Or the trunk of your car. 

So, where are traditional publishing and indie publishing in 2016? Let's hear what Jane Friedman has to say about it. 

This post contains affiliate links, which means that any purchases you make may provide me with a commission at no extra cost to you! Thanks for supporting my site in this way!

A HUGE Thanks to This Month's Sponsor, GoLance!

If you are a freelancer or need to hire a freelancer, GoLance makes it free to post jobs or post your resume of the kind of freelance work you do. All my freelancers out there, go check out GoLance

About Jane Friedman

Jane started working in publishing right out of college and started the blog at Writer's Digest, There Are No Rules. She has worked for the Virginia Quarterly Review, teaches at the University of Virginia, and has a long speaking and writing career. I love that Jane has an understanding of both traditional publishing and indie publishing. Find Jane on her site, follow her on Twitter, and follow her on Facebook. I would HIGHLY recommend her monthly newsletter, Electric Speed!

Highlights from the Interview

  • Authors interests and goals are largely the same, not matter how they publish
  • What often does separate them is the feeling of being snubbed by the traditional publishing world (Smashwords founder Mark Coker started the company after this kind of rejection!).
  • Really successful indies hire formatters and editors and take it seriously. They invest time and money, sometimes more of an investment than you'd get from a traditional publisher. 
  • While you may not always know the reason you don't get a (or another) book deal, sometimes the reason is your platform. Publishers need to see that you can sell books. 
  • Indies can have more control in many ways because they don't to go through a publisher and can control things themselves. At the same time, the control is now most often in the hands of Amazon, which isn't quite transparent with its business practices. 

Should You Go with Indie Publishing or Traditional Publishing?

Today you have to commit to self-publishing for a few years to see success and traction. Once you are with one, you want some consistency to have a longer time to grow your audience. With traditional publishing, you can easily become a one-and-done deal because if your first book doesn't do well, that's it. Literary writers and poets will not find the same kind of recognition outside of traditional publishing. For those who write genre fiction or really want control, you'll find that with indie publishing. 

What Do Writers Really Need to Have in Place as Far as Platform?

Either way you plan to publish, you need a visibility that will translate into book sales. This could be a blog or a social media presence or a podcast. Or it could be offline where you connect with other influencers or with your audience other places. There aren't as many hard and fast rules about exact numbers, but more a sense of what kind of sales you can achieve through your influence. (See my post on Jane's blog about how to leverage other people's platforms for more ideas!) 

Do Authors Need to Blog? 

You need an author website that is a hub for your content. The site itself doesn't need to change a lot, but will contain all your author information, bio, books, and information. A blog should be connected to that site so that all your traffic is going to one place. If you are sitting there unsure of what you should blog about, may you don't need to. It should be something that is consistent over years. It's  a helpful tool, but you can utilize other social platforms or do interviews on other blogs. You do not HAVE to blog. 

What Should Authors Blog About? 

Human beings are marked by curiosity. We often love that peek behind the curtain, both at the writing process and also our personal lives. It requires a level of charm and being able to create an online persona that draws people in. There is a balance where you don't want to crash your career by the way you express yourself online as an author. (I love YA author Sarah Dessen's blog!)

Jane's Tips for Managing Different Kinds of Work

As an instructor, a writer, a coach, and someone with an active online space, Jane has to wear a lot of hats and keep them straight. She breaks up the days and also the weekdays vs weekends, blocking out certain pieces of time for particular tasks to make sure those tasks get done. 

What Are the Current Publishing Trends? 

In the past few years, books have move primarily to Amazon, not through brick and mortar stores. 50-60% of all book sales are coming through Amazon, which affects traditional publishing AND indie publishing. The United States is moving toward subscription models (think: Netflix for books) like Kindle Unlimited or Scribd. The traditionally published authors get paid differently-- traditional by a set price per "borrow," while indies get paid by pages read. (Jane doesn't see this lasting and guesses that there will likely be a move to ALL authors paid by pages read, though traditional publishers will likely balk at this. PS- Read about some of the issues with this pages read model HERE.) 

Another trend is serialization, where authors release chapters at a time of their books through something like Wattpad or Tapas. People also read more on mobile devices and this changes how publishers market books for commuters specifically and in other ways. 

Links Mentioned

The Life House in Wales 

An Intimate History of Humanity

Super Mario Brother's Theme Song with a Trumpet and Handgun


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Let's chat in the comments: If you are a writer, are you more inclined toward traditional publishing or indie publishing?