Nathan Bransford has spoken. He says it’s never too early for writers to start using social media. Perhaps one day we’ll all be issued Twitter accounts in the womb.
Since Nathan is a Thought Leader in our industry (according to Klout) I have a feeling a lot of writers are scrambling around this weekend, trying to set up blogs.
If you’re a non-geek who doesn’t have a clue where to begin, I wrote a post last December on How to Start a Blog that people have found useful..
Here are some further dos and don’ts for creative writers who are thinking of plunging into the blogosphere.
1) DO read a bunch of other writers’ blogs before you start. Decide what you like and don’t like. There is no one right kind of blog. What appeals to 20-something fantasy readers may turn off 30-something romance readers or 60-something mystery readers. That’s as it should be. You want to attract readers with similar interests to yours.
2) DO comment on other blogs. If you don’t have much blog experience, I recommend spending a few weeks commenting before you start your own. Nathan wrote a great guide to blog comments that will help if you're nervous about joining in. If you get your name known as a commenter first, you’ll have potential blog friends. And maybe you can avoid that awkward phase when you only have three blank-faced followers, one of whom is your mom. (But never beg for followers. Pathetic is not an image you want to foster.)
3) DO remember blogging is about making friends. As Nathan has “trademarked, patented, and paid to have etched into the moon…SOCIAL MEDIA IS SOCIAL.” Offer interesting content that gives something of value to the kind of people you’d like to get to know. Visit people who do the same.
4) DO put your name in the title. Yes, I know 90% of writerly blogs have cute titles that don’t contain proper names. But think about it: if I enjoy your blog and want to revisit, I probably won’t remember if yours is the one called “Musings and Murmurings” or the one called “Mumblings and Mutterings.” I’m going to remember your name (hopefully) and maybe your subject matter (“Mysterious Minneapolis.”)
But your name is best. That’s what you want people (and Google) to notice. Social media guru Kristin Lamb even recommends changing your title if it’s impersonal. She changed her own blog moniker from “Warrior Writers” to “Kristin Lamb’s Blog.” and says it’s easy. You don’t have to change the address, just the header.
5) DO think of blogging as journalism. A blog is like a newspaper column: more personal than straightforward reporting, but not as confessional as memoir. Posts should be short (300-1000 words) and informative.
6) DO blog on a regular schedule. You don’t have to blog every day, or even every week. But you do need to let people know when to expect a new post from you and follow through. Keep some saved posts in the draft folder for times when something comes up.
7) DO use SEO tags. Yes, my eyes glaze over too when people talk about S(earch) E(ngine) O(ptimization). This is what you need to know: Google reads tags. Those are the little categories you put at the bottom of the post. So if you’re writing about your zombie fiction set in
, tag your blog with “zombies, Minneapolis horror stories, and Your Name.” When somebody Googles any of those things, your blog will come up. Minneapolis, Minnesota
1) DON’T use your blog as a personal journal.
- Or a notebook for your work in progress.
- Or a message board to beg for critiques or praise.
- Or a stage to pound your chest and say “look at me!!”
I repeat: you’re looking for friends. Not psychotherapists. Not critics. Not minions.
2) DON’T post unpublished fiction or poetry—unless you never intend to publish it elsewhere. Even if you get loyal followers to read your WIP, you’re jeopardizing your future career. Putting something on a blog is publishing. You’ll never be able to sell first rights to a story or poem, and there will be copyright issues with a chapter of a book you plan to sell later.
EXCEPTION: blogfests and contests. Usually these require only a snippet of a scene and they’re fun and allow writers a taste of each others’ creative work.
3) DON’T start with a barrage of posts. Slow and steady really does win the race. Don’t succumb to the pressure from the professional blog gurus. You’re not trying to be The Daily Beast. If you post every day, it’s hard to cut back. But if you only post every two weeks, that’s what people will expect. You can post more later. It’s easier to give than take away.
4) DON’T be unprofessional. Remember publishing is a business—not that different from manufacturing widgets (alas!) So don’t put anything on the blog you wouldn’t want your future
boss publisher to read.
5) DON’T box yourself into a too-small niche. If you’re starting a blog long before your book comes out, or even before you’ve written one, as Nathan suggests, you won’t have a clue where your career might take you. But you do know who YOU are. That’s what your blog should be about. Love horror movies? Classic mysteries? Pizza with anchovies? Write about it. You’ll draw like-minded people. When you write your mashup of The Mysterious Affair at Styles with anchovy-loving zombies, you’ll have a ready-made audience.
6) DON’T act like a rock star from Mars. Nothing is sillier than an unpublished writer pontificating about an unfinished, unpublished book to non-existent fans. Or blabbering about stuff she knows nothing about to an audience of nobody.
7) DON’T Monetize. Or take advice from blog gurus who do. They’re not talking to you. They’re talking to people who want to blog for a living (a precarious effort these days.) I’ve said this before, but I’m going to repeat it because you’ll read conflicting advice. Maybe later, after you have a following, your peeps will love you enough to tolerate a few discreet ads, but right now you won’t make enough money per month to buy a Venti at Starbucks, and you’ll label yourself a cyber-hooker. Save your purity for your future true love—your own books.
If you want in-depth information on blogging and all things social media, I recommend Kristin Lamb’s book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media.
Anybody out there about to start a blog? Any questions? Fellow bloggers—what advice would you give them?