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Updating My Look & Blogging for Money

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Updating My Look & Blogging for Money

The other day I was looking through photos from the past couple years, and I realized I was wearing the same dress in almost every picture. No joke, take a look:

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Cape Cod, 2012

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Mexico, 2013

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Seattle, 2014

 

I still love this dress, and it would probably be on my body right now if it wasn’t stretched out and threadbare from my wearing it approximately twice a week for the past five years.

Besides my wardrobe, you know what else has been looking the same for the past five years? This blog. Come July, In The Garden of Eva will turn five years old.

A lot has changed since I started this blog. Back then I was single, living in my friend’s guest room on Cape Cod, and just learning how to write novels.

Now I’m married with a baby, living in Maryland, with a couple of finished novels sitting on my desktop. But this blog still looks the same.

Is it time for a change?

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Vancouver. This dress. Again.

 

On the wardrobe front, I decided yes, I need some new looks, especially some nursing-friendly (but not too mom-ish) tops and dresses.

After a few disappointing trips to the mall, I decided to try Stitch Fix*. I’m sure by now you’ve heard of this service, as every blogger in the world has at least one post dedicated to what their Stitch Fix “personal stylist” sent them. So I won’t go into detail. I’ll just say that I kept one dress from my first box, one skirt from my second, and sent everything back with my third. I will also say that Stitch Fix customer service was super nice, and because I was so unhappy with my third box, they are sending me a fourth one for free. Woohoo!

(*If you decide to try Stitch Fix and use my referral link, I will get a $25 credit, but it will cost nothing extra for you. Come on, help Mama buy a new dress!)

So I’m slowly updating my look. And now the question is, should update the look of this blog?

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My mom and me at my brother’s wedding over the weekend.  I am wearing a dress from Stitch Fix.

 

My friend Jeni Wallace, who is also a new mom, recently started a beautiful food blog, The Coquette Kitchen, and she is currently learning how to make money blogging. She strongly encouraged me to think about how I could, too.

I have to admit, it’s an intriguing thought. I live in the DC area, which is ranked the most expensive place in the country for childcare. Not to mention the absurd commute times. (It often takes me 45 minutes to drive 6.5 miles to the school where I work part-time.) So the more I can work from home while my baby is napping, the better.

And besides, wouldn’t it be nice to make money doing something I enjoy… and something that I’m going to do anyway?

But the more I talked to Jeni, the more I realized that in order to make money blogging, I would have to totally change my approach.

And I’m not just talking ads or affiliate links, although those are ways to make money. According to Jeni, the number one way bloggers make money is by selling their own e-books and online courses. Some of these courses sell for as much as $40 or $50 or even $100 or $1000! As I began poking around at some of the money-making blogs out there, I realized that many offer courses on how to make money blogging.

Wait a minute… So the best way to make money blogging is to sell courses on how to make money blogging? Hmm…

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Jeni Wallace and me.

 

Not all courses are on how to blog, of course. Jeni’s husband, Daniel David Wallace, is also making a foray into the blogging business; he has a free e-book on how to write better sentences, as well as a course called “Unlock the Six-Step Story.” Right now they are both free, but I assume he’ll start charging for courses once he builds up his fan base.

Daniel’s courses make sense to me. He has a PhD in creative writing and is a successful and innovative writing instructor. He’s legitimately an expert who has unique and helpful information to share. His content is original and genuine and worth paying for.

I also have no doubt if Jeni starts offering courses, hers will be amazing as well. Not only is Jeni a fabulous cook, she basically knows everything about everything. She’s an expert at researching things and breaking them down in a friendly and helpful manner so that the average research-hating-lazy-person like me can digest them. Jeni could offer a course in anything from “how to plan a European culinary vacation with a baby in tow” to “how to always order the best thing at a restaurant both at home and abroad,” and it would be well worth the money.

So that’s great. Jeni and Daniel are going to become a blogging-business power couple. Good for them.

But what about me? What about my blog?

Is there a way that I could make a bit of money by blogging that feels genuine? Do I have unique information to offer that people would be willing to pay for? How can I get more followers? Do I need to change my blog to look more polished and professional? Do I need to change the way I write my posts? And if I change the way I blog, will it still be fun?

I don’t know.

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GET A NEW DRESS, EVA!!

 

It might be worth doing a little research at least. Maybe even forking out the money for this course on how to make money blogging**. (Jeni recommends it, and if Jeni recommends it, I know it must be good.)

(**If you purchase Blog By Number using this affiliate link, I will get a commission, but it will cost you nothing extra. See? I’m learning about this money-making stuff already!)

But there’s this part of me that wonders, do I really want to spend my time researching how to make money blogging and writing e-courses? I don’t have much free time as it is. Wouldn’t I rather spend it working on my fiction in the hopes that one day I might make a bit of money from my published novels? That’s the type of writing I really want to be doing anyway.

But if I’m not making money from this blog, and not very many people read it, what’s the point of writing it in the first place?

Because I like it? Is that enough of a reason?

No matter what I decide, though, I do think it’s time for a blog makeover.

I’m considering upgrading my hosting site and freshening up the look of my blog. Maybe I’ll start looking into that and wait until Jeni’s figured out this blogging for money thing… then I’ll buy her course. ‘Cuz I know if she made one, it’d be good.

Hey, if I can have a Stitch Fix personal stylist pick out my clothes for me, I can have Jeni do my research for me. And in the end, both my wardrobe and my blog will have a fresh look for the world!

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Me, my husband, and our baby. I’m wearing a new skirt from Stitch Fix.

 

 

What Agents Are Looking For in a Manuscript & What I’m Looking for in a Stitch Fix

What Agents Are Looking For in a Manuscript & What I’m Looking for in a Stitch Fix

*Check out my poem and new CNF piece on Burlesque Press’s Variety Show!*

I’m attempting to start a writing group here in Minneapolis. We had our first organizational meeting last week, and quickly the conversation turned to agents and how hard it is to get one. I have an agent now, but I agree they’re difficult to nab, especially when your query is floating in the slush pile.

I queried more than thirty agents before landing one. I got requests for partial and full manuscripts, and my hopes would rise… but then the agents would email back saying they didn’t connect with the story/character as much as they had hoped, or that the book ended up not being a good fit for them after all.

I agonized over what needed to be changed. Did I need to make my main character more likeable? Increase the romantic tension? Add more adventure? When I pressed an agent about what wasn’t working, she said “It ended up being a bit darker than I expected and it just wasn’t really to my taste. Of course, it’s all so very subjective!”

Indeed it is.

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Stitch Fix box. photo credit.

On a seemingly unrelated note, I recently gave Stitch Fix a try. This is a service in which a “personal stylist” picks out five pieces of clothing that are mailed to your door. You can keep whatever you like and send the rest back.

This seemed like a great idea since I desperately need clothes (the other day I put on a sweater I bought for $3 probably ten years ago and noticed a hole in the armpit…and I wore it anyway), yet I never really feel like going shopping. Plus, since the Stitch Fix clothes are a little higher-end than what I’d normally buy, I thought it would encourage me to stop wearing denim maternity dresses from the thrift store (but they’re so comfy!!) and incorporate a few more dignified pieces into my wardrobe.

So I filled out the “style profile” online with my size and preferences and waited for my first “fix” to arrive. When it did, I was pretty disappointed. Here’s what was in my box:

1. A black-and-white blouse my fiancé said made me look like a cow.
2. An ugly paisley dress that was way too big.
3. A boring coat in a hideous shade of maroon.
4. An ill-fitting orange and navy sweater that was waaaay too preppy.
5. A weird and sort-of fun necklace that I ended up buying just because I wanted to have something to show for myself.

The funky necklace I ended up buying.

The funky necklace I ended up buying.

I wondered what had gone wrong. That’s when I read something on the Stitch Fix site I had missed before: “Pinterest is the best way for our personal stylists to see exactly what items and looks you love.” Crap. I hadn’t given my stylist enough information about what I was looking for.

So, I created a Pinterest board called “Clothing I Like” and sent it to Stitch Fix, hoping next time they’d get it right.

My second box came last week, and it was better, but I was still disappointed. It contained:

1. An orange sweater that fit and wasn’t terrible but wasn’t warm enough for Minnesota and ultimately didn’t thrill me.

2. A gray cardigan with gold sequined elbow patches. I had pinned a cardigan with elbow patches on my board, so I see where the stylist was going with this, but gold sequined patches on a gray sweater was not exactly what I had in mind.

3. A halter top with some sparkly sequins. I had said that I wanted something sparkly for the holidays, but this top just wasn’t for me.

4. A gray dress that fit me perfectly and I considered buying, but the color and style wasn’t quite right, and I wasn’t sure I had any events I would actually wear it to.

5. A purple tunic shirt that was a little too big, not warm enough, and a bit plain, but again, I wanted to buy something. (This is the trick with Stitch Fix — you end up buying something because you don’t want to lose the $20 “styling fee” that goes towards your purchase.) The shirt wasn’t perfect, but I was pretty sure I could make it work with a long-sleeved shirt underneath (for warmth!) and a fun sparkly scarf. So that’s what I bought.

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The dress I almost bought from Stitch Fix. I’m second-guessing myself now, but really I can’t wear sleeveless in Minnesota.

I felt sort of bad sending back the clothes with my negative comments. “I like the idea in theory, but this just doesn’t wow me,” I wrote.  I wondered if my stylist would be bewildered. (Eva said she wanted sparkly! What’s wrong with that top I sent her?) The answer is, there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a nice top. It’s just not right for me.

This is probably what happens with agents. On their blogs and Twitter they tell writers what they’re looking for, but it’s hard to describe exactly what book will knock your socks off.

An agent might read a query that sounds promising, but when the manuscript arrives, there’s something about it that’s not quite right.  Maybe it’s not a bad manuscript, but they don’t think they have any editors in their network they could send it to. Maybe they already have another book they’re representing that’s too similar. Or maybe it’s simply not to their taste. They aren’t wowed. And if you’re going to be the champion for a writer and his/her work, you need to be wowed.

On the other hand, it happens sometimes that the manuscript isn’t quite right as is, but the agent still thinks it’s workable. Maybe with a few changes and a sparkly scarf…

The point is, an agent is looking for the same thing in the slush pile that I’m looking for in my Stitch Fix box: something they absolutely love that fits them well. You can try all you want to describe what that might be, but in the end you won’t know until you get it.

Of course it’s all so very subjective!

How I jazzed up the purple tunic.

How I jazzed up the purple tunic.