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Anne R. Allen's Blog


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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, December 11, 2011

HOW NOT TO BLOG: Beginning Blogging for Authors Part II

This is a continuation of last week’s post “HOW TO BLOG.” It's aimed at authors who are trying to build platform. If you’re only blogging for yourself and your cat, skip this—you and Pufferball can go watch that Hallie Berry DVD again. I’ll also repeat what I said last week: This is not meant to be taken as dogma. (Seriously. I hate to step in a pile of dogma myownself.) This is just what works/doesn’t work for me and successful bloggers I admire. But there are exceptions to every rule, and creative people are all about being exceptional. If something different works for you, go for it! 

HOW NOT TO BLOG: 22 Things for New Bloggers to Avoid

1. Ignoring comments. If somebody comments, respond in the thread. Personally, I did not know this for, like, months when I started out. If any of you who commented two years ago are still reading in spite of my cluelessness—I apologize. Email responses are good, too—but responses in the thread stimulate discussion and further comments. And if you want comments, turn off the %&@! CAPTCHA, word verification, people! Your spamblocker blocks 95% of spam without it. The other 5% you can delete yourself. 

2. Crying in the wilderness. Social Networking is SOCIAL. Nobody coming to your party? Go find one. Visit other blogs. To have a friend, you gotta be one. Follow and comment. It’s called social networking. Go out and be sociable!

Tip: Looking for stuff to post about? Respond to other people’s blogs on your own. Instead of leaving a long comment in that anti-prologue thread, write your own post on the pros of prologues and leave a link.

3. Using your blog as a personal journal. “Today I went to the dentist, picked up groceries and cooked my husband’s favorite meatloaf,” will snoozify even your immediate family. It’s OK to post personal stuff if it’s funny or newsworthy—like how Pufferball won the “ugliest pet” award. Or how many Kardashian-wannabes you spotted yesterday at the mall. But don’t use it like a private diary if you’re blogging to build platform. 

4. Whining: Resist posting rants about the unfairness of the publishing industry. Or how lame that famous writer’s work is compared to yours. It’s OK when you’ve had a big disappointment to ask for the emotional support of your friends, but don’t give specifics and never rail against the agent/editor/reviewer who spurned you. Remember the first thing an agent will do if she’s interested in your query is Google you. She probably just had lunch with that editor you called Mr. Poopy-Brain.

5. White text on dark backgrounds. Ouch! My eyeballs. Seriously. Every “how to blog” article says this, but still, half the blogs I visit have dark backgrounds. They are a big “go away” sign.

6. Posting unpublished fiction or poetry if you ever hope to publish it. And don’t post creative stuff if you’re just trolling for praise. Want a critique? Try critiquecircle.com, or writing community forums like Nathan Bransford’s. For some reason, people don’t tend to read fiction on blogs (even by famous published authors.) Save the fiction for the occasional blogfest or contest, but otherwise, keep your WIP to yourself, especially if you’re a newbie. You don’t want that sucky first draft hanging out there in cyberspace. Trust me on this.

Besides, you’ll be seriously limiting your future publishing options. Listen to agent Meredith Barnes

“Many writers serialize their work on their blogs. I cannot encourage you strongly enough to avoid that. Authors nearly always list "getting an agent" as the reason they put "teasers" on their blogs. But there is already a mechanism for showing your work to agents: the query. If you choose to do so anyway you may put yourself breach of the warranties and indemnities clause of the publishing contract that you haven't even signed yet.”

Exception: blogfests and contests. A blogfest is a non-competitive mass sharing of work. One blogger will announce a topic, say “first-kiss scenes,” and anybody who wants to join in signs up. On the given day, everybody reads each other’s posts and makes comments. It’s a fun way to meet new writers and get acquainted with their work. A blog contest can be anything from a random name draw from a list of commenters to a competition for the best cat-related haiku. Prizes are usually a book or maybe a critique from the blogger. Rewards for the host blogger are an increase in traffic and more followers.

7. Writing snoozifying headers. “It’s Wednesday” or “So Sorry I Haven’t Been Blogging” won’t snag a lot of readers. If you want examples of good headers, browse Twitter and see what YOU would want to click on. You need to think like a copywriter—as Joanne Tombrakos blogged on Jane Friedman’s blog this week. Certain types of headers typically draw in readers.

·       Lists: 10 Lies That Work Better than "My Dog Ate My Homework"

·       Questions: What if the Dog Really DID Eat Your Homework?

·       Answers to Questions: A how-to is usually a grabber: “How to Sell Homework-Excuses on E-Bay”

·       Search Engine Optimized: Use keywords potential readers might use in a search to bring new readers. Nathan Bransford explained SEO way better than I can in his post What You Need to Know About SEO on his blog this week.
8. Pointless tags or none. Tags are the little words and phrases at the bottom or top of a post that tell search engines what’s in the text. Use as many tags as possible. This is how Google finds you. Tag your posts with names of anybody mentioned, plus your main topics. (More SEO.)

9. Failure to link. Don’t be afraid you’ll send your readers off to read somebody else if you include linkage to other sites. Linking is friendly and it also gets the attention of those search engines. A weekly round-up with links to some of your favorite blogposts of the week is a great way to get readers and notice from the Google spiders.

10. Blogging too often. If you have nothing to say, don’t say it. Yes, I know blog gurus tell you to post once a day or more, but creative writers have other priorities. (You’ve got that novel to write, remember?) I suggest once a week, with an occasional mid-week post for important announcements. Most blogs burn out after two years. But you want yours to be a platform to support you for the long haul.

Personally, I’m relieved when my favorite bloggers cut back to a few posts a week. That way I have some hope of keeping up.

11. Blogging erratically. Keep to a posted schedule. Most agents say they’ll look up your blog before they request a partial. If you have an abandoned blog hanging in cyberspace, this says—1) you don’t stick with things 2) You don’t have much to say 3) You don’t have the platform needed to sell your work to an editor.

And if you’re a self-pubber who doesn’t update your blog, you’re abandoning your fans. They don’t tend to like that.

It’s fine to take blogcations, but if you have to skip a few posts, leave a message letting readers know you’ve got big things in the works and when you plan to return. And—if you do lapse for a while, don’t post a long list of excuses when you get back. Bo-ring.

If you started a blog six months ago and haven’t done anything with it—delete it now and start over when you’re ready. Really. Right now. Especially if you’ve got queries out or a book for sale.

FYI: Wednesday and Thursday are the biggest blog traffic days. (Worst days: Saturday and Sunday—which I didn’t know when I started a Sunday blog. Sigh.)

12. Monetizing. If you sign up for Google ads, you have no control over what they advertise, and many of the ads will be for bogus agencies or scam vanity publishers. Besides, they won’t pay you more than a few pennies a day and they’ll make your blog annoying. You’re after bigger fish. Like followers, readers and maybe a book contract.

13. Acting like you’re a rock star from Mars. Don’t pretend you have fans when you’ve never published a book. Talk to your readers as equals, not adoring minions. Don’t assume all your readers are newbies who don’t know the basics. Or they are fans come to worship at the feet of your greatness. And it's kind of creepy to make oblique references to your characters as if the reader has been living in your head.

If somebody disagrees with you in a comment, argue respectfully, or delete their comment if it’s offensive, but don’t say— “When you’ve written a whole novel like I have, you ignorant pipsqueak, you’ll know I’m right.” You may be talking to a bestselling novelist—or an agent’s assistant who’s about to read your query.

14. Trying to maintain too many blogs. One is plenty. Two if the other is a group blog. Anything more and you won’t be able to keep them up. If somebody visits your profile and randomly clicks on one of your twelve blogs and it hasn’t been updated since you posted that weepy eulogy for Heath Ledger, they are not going to try another—and you just stamped “unprofessional” next to your name.

15. No contact info. A blog is essentially an advertisement for you as a writer. Why advertise a product that’s not available? Unless you’re being actively pursued by a dangerous cyberstalker, or you're living under a repressive regime and posting stuff that could get you arrested, there's no reason not to provide a contact email address. That's the whole reason you've got the blog--so people can find you. I advise setting up a separate email account for your blog.

16. Making the blog about one book and/or posting cute observations from your character’s point of view. Yes, I know some bloggers have managed to sustain this kind of tour de force for a while—but what happens when your editor has you change the character’s name? Or that series doesn’t sell and you move on to something else? You want a blog to establish your career—not lock you in a box.

17. Focusing on follower numbers. Go for quality not quantity. This is about making friends who (hopefully) will become loyal fans. If you treat people as a commodity, they’re not going to care about you, either.

19. Spamming other bloggers. Visiting random blogs and saying, “This is a swell blog; come visit mine” is creepy. If there’s a discussion going on about prologues and you’ve just blogged about it, by all means mention it. But it has to be relevant to the discussion.

20. Writing posts that are too long, dense, or address more than one topic. I’ve read that 79% of web users scan rather than read. Break up posts with lists, bolding and lots of white space. If you want to write about several topics, use separate blogposts.

21. Letting blogging take over your life. You CAN’T read all the top publishing blogs and comment on all your friends’ blogs every day. Choose one or two days a week and let go of the guilt.

22. Forgetting the #1 rule of blogging is the Golden one.  Offer the kind of content you like to read. Keep it short, sweet, informative and reader-friendly, and pretty soon you’ll have a bunch of friendly readers. Want followers? Follow. Want commenters? Comment. This is social media, get it?

For more on the importance of blogging for authors, checkout Roberta Trahan’s blog this week. She says:

“An author blog is the single most effective forum for building a bridge between you and your audience. You have a soap box, and your readers have a way to interact with you.”

What about you, scriveners? What have I left out? Do you have any pet peeves that make you avoid certain blogs? What's most likely to send you clicking off into cyberspace?

Next week’s post will be a refreshing one to those of you who are on the fence about traditional vs. indie publishing. I’ve asked romance writer Roni Loren, who has a novel about to debut with Berkley Heat/Penguin to talk about her experience as a traditionally published author and weigh the pros and cons. She agrees with me that the us-vs-them mentality with trad. vs indie publishing is silly. We’re all in this together!

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Blogger Ruth Harris said...

All great advice for bloggers & wannabe-bloggers. Pay attention to Anne! She knows what she's talking about & she keeps even me on the straight(ish) and narrow(ish). ;-)

December 11, 2011 at 10:06 AM  
Blogger Sarah Pearson said...

This was good to read - I'm actually ticking most of the boxes this week - although more by accident than design :-)

December 11, 2011 at 10:09 AM  
Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Wow, those are great tips! Where to begin?
I've always responded to comments on my site and others have told me they like to see the interaction.
I don't complain online. Serves no purpose.
I will never do adds on my blog.
And number nineteen made me laugh out loud!
Couldn't agree more with you, Anne.

December 11, 2011 at 10:49 AM  
Blogger Jacqueline Howett said...

Thanks for the tips. Interesting post as usual. I shall think about some of them.

Nice to visit here again.

All the best to you over the holiday season!

December 11, 2011 at 11:01 AM  
Anonymous mark williams international said...

Number one is just so true, Anne. A blog where your comments are just ignored is a huge turn-off, and I've stopped following many blogs because they are just sponges.

Followed closely on the hate list by those who moderate their comments. Are they deleting the negative ones?

@ Ruth: I can't imagine anyone keeping you on the straight and narrow!

December 11, 2011 at 11:13 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

@Mark I did say on the straight(ish) and narrow(ish). far be it from me to make unsubstantiated statements! ;-)

How's your snakebite?
December 11, 2011 10:06 AM

December 11, 2011 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger J. R. Nova said...

Thanks so much! I'm going to show all my friends :)

December 11, 2011 at 11:31 AM  
Blogger Barbara Silkstone said...

This is a wonderful blog. I'm so enjoying your information and guidance. Thanks for posting from the Indie Chicks Anthology.

Have a great week!

December 11, 2011 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ruth--LOL. Around here, we don't like being kept on the straight and narrow any more than we like stepping in dogma.

Sarah--I learned most of this by accident myself.

Alex--And lots of what I didn't learn by accident, I learned from you. You have a great blog for people to model. Nobody gets more comments than you!

Jacqueline--Happy Christmas to you, too!

Mark--Thanks for leaving a comment in spite of being one handed from the snake bite!

JR--I'm so glad. If everybody can get a few of their friends to stop doing the annoying stuff, we'll have a happier blogosphere.

December 11, 2011 at 12:29 PM  
OpenID bethchristopher.com said...

As a new blogger, I'm loving this series. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience!

December 11, 2011 at 12:38 PM  
Blogger bookspersonally said...

Such great advice for author bloggers (and the rest of us bloggers in general!)

December 11, 2011 at 12:49 PM  
Blogger fOIS In The City said...

Anne, as always this is a very well thought and helpful post ... not just for those who are beginning, but also for those who have been doing this and may still be clueless. I say without reserve that I have learned much frm your sage advice and I cherish our friendship :)

December 11, 2011 at 12:56 PM  
Blogger L. Diane Wolfe said...

Thank you for mentioning #6. Most writers don't realize that potential publishers and agents look at work posted online as 'already published.' And excerpts tend to be way too long.

December 11, 2011 at 1:25 PM  
Anonymous Karen S. Elliott said...

I'm clueless about tagging a blog post. I need to learn that. I agree on posting a blog that starts out "I haven't posted in a while..." Or those that constantly complain. And the people that blog on a SPECIFIC schedule but have nothing new to say. Why bother? I'd rather wait two or three weeks for your next blog than to read a blog on a scheduled day that does nothing except stick to a "blog schedule."

December 11, 2011 at 1:43 PM  
OpenID augustmclaughlin said...

Fantastic tips, Anne! I wish I'd read them a year ago. ;)

I particularly like your comments on aiming for quality rather than fixating on "the numbers" -- this makes for a much more satisfying experience for us all.

December 11, 2011 at 2:01 PM  
Anonymous Roberta Trahan said...

Thanks, Anne. Another priceless 'how to' post--or in this case 'how NOT to"--for all of us who are trying to find our voice in the webiverse. Experience speaks volumes, fellow writers. Anne's is a great example to follow--as is her advice!

December 11, 2011 at 2:11 PM  
Blogger Elaine AM Smith said...

Great advice, Anne. It is great to see the "how to"s and the "not to"s so clearly pointed out, I lurked for ages until I felt comfortable uncloaking and commenting. :)

December 11, 2011 at 2:23 PM  
OpenID heatherharshman said...

Ahhh yes. Creative titles to blog posts. That stumps me more than thinking of or writing posts. I agree, though, that they are the "catch" to get readers to blogs. Thanks for the great reminders.

December 11, 2011 at 2:29 PM  
Blogger Meghan Ward said...

A great list! And thanks for the link to Roberta's blog. I look forward to reading that. And can't wait to hear what Roni has to say about traditional vs indie publishing!

December 11, 2011 at 2:41 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

beth and books--I'm so glad it's helping.

Florence--Blogger let you post as yourself! A triumph of stick-to-it-iveness. I'm so glad to have met you here in the blogosphere.

Diane--Agents harp on this, but I still see it all over--it's so silly to jeopardize future publication just to get a few lines of praise now.

Karen--tagging isn't intuitive. It looks as if the tags are for your own organization of posts, but they don't tell you that's what search engines pay attention to.

august--everybody fixates on numbers these days, and they mean less and less.

Roberta--Thanks--and thanks for the great quote.

Elaine--I love lurkers. Nobody should be embarrassed to lurk. That's how we learn.

Heather--Those titles are the key. Especially if you get your traffic from Twitter the way I do. It has to grab in a half a second.

December 11, 2011 at 2:42 PM  
Blogger Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Excellent points, Anne! That followers one, though, ugh. It so gets me in the high school popularity mode again. I won't lie. The first thing I look for on a blog is how many followers it has. Then I worry about my numbers. It's like a vicious cycle I'm trying very, very hard to keep breaking. :)

December 11, 2011 at 3:38 PM  
OpenID angelaquarles.com said...

Great tips!! I only just last week added a contact page, LOL! And I used to not reply to comments much, especially when I read another writer's blog post that we shouldn't do that and instead reply via email because it was arrogant to think they'd come back to check. Then I saw that people were subscribing to the comments, and I realized that it was rude and arrogant NOT to reply in the thread... Sigh. Live and learn, right? Now I try to reply and go to their sites too...

December 11, 2011 at 3:46 PM  
Blogger L'Aussie said...

Hi Anne. This was so informative. I'm guilty of some of the no-nos but I'm not going to cry about it. We all make mistakes as we learn.

My number 1 turnoff is Captcha codes and Word Verification. I often leave a comment to say please get rid of it but no one does. It is so unnecessary and time consuming when most of us only have a limited time to visit/comment. I especially hate it when it's one that waits until you've hit post then it brings it up afterwards. I'm sure I've missed commenting on a lot of blogs because I've already moved on. Ugh!

I also don't like blogs that have tiny fonts. All right when I'm home and have a giant monitor that I can maximise, but when I'm away working on my netbook I really squeal!

Thanks again Anne. I'll try to do better!


December 11, 2011 at 3:55 PM  
Anonymous Sherry Roberts said...

I think the Golden rule (#22) is the most important one. It is true not only in blog writing, but in all writing. Write what you want to read. Especially write what you want to read, if you can't find anyone else writing it. Great advice, Anne.

December 11, 2011 at 6:22 PM  
Blogger Patricia said...

Thanks so much for this post, Anne. I've been blogging for about six months and I think I may be doing it right, now that I've read your "tips".

December 11, 2011 at 6:30 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Michelle--We all get seduced by numbers. All those indie writers who post tens of thousands of book sales every week and I feel lucky to have made ten. Every blog is different--some have a niche audience. A handful of loyal fans is better than a mob of strangers who may disappear tomorrow.

angela--I've read that POV a lot--telling bloggers to answer in email, but it just doesn't get a discussion going (and more than 50% of commenters don't have an address on their profile anyway.) If you want an answer, you go back. If you don't, you don't. But OTHER people may be interested in the response.

L'Aussie--Oooooh those tiny fonts. As a Boomer, I would like to say tiny fonts eliminate most of my demographic. If I can't read it, I'm gone, people.

Sherry--You're so right. Empathy is even better than flattery. It will get you everywhere.

Patricia--Don't you love that? I named this blog Anne R. Allen's Blog because I couldn't think of anything else. A few months later, I read Kristen Lamb, saying "Always put your name on your blog." I did good--totally by accident.

December 11, 2011 at 7:24 PM  
Anonymous Adam Collings said...

Your point 6 about posting fiction was interesting. I am someone who serialises fiction on my blog (in fact I host this fiction on a separate dedicated blog but link to it). This is not my novel, which I am working on getting published, it's a side project. The idea is to use it as a platform-building exercise. I've always found it hard that you have to have a platform before you approach a publisher. How can you begin marketing before you have anything to market? My solution, was to begin building a following with my serial fiction, and it is working. Now I am considering self-publishing this fiction in a series of eBooks for the convenience of readers (as you say many people don't like to read fiction on the computer) and maybe even to make a tiny bit of income to help offset the costs of trying to get published. The downside of all of this is that I am making work visible that has not been professionally edited.

I am really interested in your thoughts and opinion on all this.

December 11, 2011 at 10:13 PM  
Anonymous Shah Wharton said...

You know I got into blogging accidentally last year - I so could have done with reading this then. Bu I've not done too badly I suppose. I think replying to comments and visiting other blogs is common sense - those who sit around waiting for 'fans' to form an orderly queue are sadly in for a lonely experience. I'm only recently blogging more specifically regarding topics and I hope this helps. I used to cover any areas which interested me: mostly books, writing and mental health. This confused the readers and I think my blog suffered as a result. I'm not an 'author' yet either, so can't call it an 'author blog'. I've wrote two books, both of which are not ready for the public yet. I have linking an 'author' website which will feature anything I do publish, to my blog. I'm not sure.

Great post Anne. I love my visits here - I go away with a busy head :D X

December 11, 2011 at 10:28 PM  
Blogger Donna Hole said...

Hi Anne ;) I have the review for Ghost Writer scheduled for Tuesday (You're sharing with Indie Chicks and Rusty Webb)

I hope you like it . .


December 11, 2011 at 11:11 PM  
Blogger jyoti pathak said...

hi Anne, great to read possible 'precautionary advices'.I just made my blog yesterday n suddenly caught with ur blog.will consider your points before and after my posts.

December 12, 2011 at 12:02 AM  
Blogger Neil Vogler said...

Oh Anne. But I love my dark red background, and my irregular schedule, and my blog's general all-round ramshackle feel. You're saying I need to be a professional now?

Damn it!

December 12, 2011 at 1:22 AM  
Blogger Chris Eboch said...

Great tips, but I think excessive tagging can backfire. Many blogs use tags to create a topic list. I blog on the craft of writing, and I want new visitors to not only read my recent post but maybe also to browse through past posts. When I realized my topic list had some 50 items, some of them variations of a word (plot, plotting), plus several dozen names of people I'd interviewed, I decided it was getting too unwieldy to be useful. I went back and trimmed down the tags, and now try to choose from the tags I've previously used. Google may not like it as much, but my first priority is to be useful to current followers.


December 12, 2011 at 3:01 AM  
Blogger Anne Gallagher said...

I'm with you on the followers. I'd rather have a dedicated bunch than a random following. When I was a newbie I bemoaned my less than 100, now that I have 300+, I can't follow everyone back, and try and write and all the other stuff as well.

Great post. Great tips.

December 12, 2011 at 3:57 AM  
Blogger Clarissa Draper said...

These are wonderful! I'm with you on #5. I won't follow blogs with black backgrounds unless they are really close blogging buddies.

December 12, 2011 at 6:18 AM  
Blogger Vera Soroka said...

Wow, this has been a bit of an eye opener. I'm very new to blogging and I did start one up on blogger.I was planning on posting short stories, flash fiction and art on my site. Now I see that this is a bad idea by the sounds of it. I don't want to blog about writing, life or about my many cats. Now I just don't know where I'm suppose to go with this.

December 12, 2011 at 6:42 AM  
Blogger Donna OShaughnessy said...

Anne, I never read your posts until the house is quiet, the coffee is fresh and my notebook is located. Then I settle in for the best free writing/blogging lessons on the web.

After 2 and 1/2 years of blogging I have pretty much broken all the rules and then repaired them. Thanks so much for helping me remodel.

My own personal blog dislike? Whining about your own physical issues, unless the blog is specifically about Crohns Disease, please don't detail your bathroom trips for me. I won't come back.

December 12, 2011 at 7:08 AM  
Anonymous i doser hand of god said...

Wonderful tips ! I'll be using them in my blog too :)

December 12, 2011 at 7:16 AM  
Blogger M. Christine Weber said...

“Keep it short, sweet, informative and reader-friendly, and pretty soon you’ll have a bunch of friendly readers. Want followers? Follow. Want commenters? Comment. This is social media, get it?” Yes, yes, and yes. This is such a valuable reminder, Anne—to use our social skills to be social. Because, I’ll admit it—while none of us wants to come across as all “me, me, me” all the time, sometimes we do (*embarrassed gulp / glances away* “Who me?”). Even the sweetest of bloggers can unwittingly do this by forgetting that, just like the most casual of relationships, blogging is a two-way street. Perhaps it’s the fact that unlike face-to-face interaction with a friend, where the give-and-take is fluid, the internet allows for that bit of distance. And hence, instead of responding like we really, really intended to, we get busy or distracted or forgetful or pulled away because Pufferball was begging to watch that Hallie Berry DVD again.

What? Why are you looking at me like that? She likes Hallie Berry.

December 12, 2011 at 8:23 AM  
Blogger Cathryn Leigh said...

I am so with you on your end not to number 10!

Thankfully, I'm very happy to respond to comments (though I had to tweek settings so I could reply at work *eyeroll*)

But I now have a question: I've been thinking of doing two blogs, one that's basically my personal blog and another that's my author blog (which would probably involve my characters talking to the readers*). Am I being crazy?

(*these readers are currently other authors, but we can't be the only one who'd like to talk to some of the character's we've read about...)

:} Cathryn Leigh

December 12, 2011 at 8:57 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Adam—A lot of new writers are confused by the word “platform.” It’s a marketing term that basically means the number of people who know your name. People like Snooki and Justin Beiber get published because they have huge platforms. You don’t build platform by publishing fiction on a blog; you build it by getting known as a person. Because 79% of people skim blogs, very few take the time to read fiction (even NYT bestsellers can’t get many people to read their fiction on a blog.) If you’re unpublished, putting unedited fiction on a blog is going to work against you, even if you’ve got a handful of people reading it. It’s unprofessional, and you want to go pro and get published, right? Agent Meredith Barnes has a lot of info on this on her blog La Vie En Prose.

Shah—I’m against having more than one blog—it simply takes too much time from actually writing. You can morph your personal blog into an author blog when you publish, but it sounds as if that’s going to be a while down the road. So choosing a particular field of interest or type of book for your reviews and comments (like mental health issues) would give you focus.

Donna—Bless you! I look forward to Tuesday!

Jyoti—I hope I’m helping you learn by my mistakes.

Neil—Your blog has some of the best content around, so I promise you’d have more readers if you followed some of my tips.

Chris—You’re right that if you’re using tags for archiving, they get unwieldy if you use SEO tags. I’ve got to figure out another way to manage my archives, because that is definitely a problem. I only have my top ten posts available this way.

Anne—I hear you. I used to visit every one of my followers when they followed me. Now it’s just not possible, although I do randomly click through and try to visit followers blogs when I can.

Clarissa—Me, too. There are some bloggers I adore who have black backgrounds, but I visit them less often than the others. Just how it is.

Vera—I’ll be doing a separate post about what to blog about. It’s a big subject. The main thing is that it needs to be stuff that reveals who you are at the same time that it provides information. For instance, an English teacher/YA writer I know started a blog about word etymologies. It’s fascinating and lets him display his quirky humor in one short, fun post a week. Another writer friend works in a bookstore. I suggested she give weekly reports of what people are buying and what she’s observing about trends.

Donna—How nice to know my blog fits into that cozy picture. Whining might be my #1 peeve, too.

idoser—Glad it helps

M. Christine—ROFL! Yeah. It’s not just bloggers. I know people who talk about their hangnails for an hour on the phone and when you say, “I had kind of an exciting week, too. I won a Pulitzer Prize and got cast opposite Brad Pitt in his new film and…” They say, “whatever. Gotta go.” They wonder why you don’t pick up when they call. Or read their blog.

Cathryn—Read what I said to Shah. I know people do that kind of blog, but it’s not very professional. Character studies are great, but they should be personal, not on your blog. When you get as famous as J. K. Rowling, and you have fans screaming to know what Harry Potter is thinking today, you can make that decision then. Right now I'd say: concentrate on having one great blog.

December 12, 2011 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

OMG I just realized I missed comments by two of my favorite people--Barbara Silkstone and Meghan Ward. Thanks to you both.

Meghan is a social media guru as well as a book reviewer for the SF Chronicle, so that's high praise indeed. I saw that you retweeted Roberta's post, Meghan, so thanks on her behalf, too!

December 12, 2011 at 1:29 PM  
OpenID jenniecoughlin said...

I'll fully cop to No. 16, but like Andrew Greeley's Chicago, every story I've ever wanted to tell revolves around my fictional small town, though each short story/book involves different characters. And readers — to date — have fallen in love with the characters and asked for more. So I do have a couple of posts weekly that do character profiles and places around town. I try not to be cutesy with it, though. It is a quirky approach, but my series is pretty quirky, too. I figure the people turned off by the approach aren't the ones likely to enjoy the series over the long haul anyway.

December 12, 2011 at 2:56 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

jennie--You're one of those "exceptional" people who prove the rule. You have managed to carry it off. I think it's partly because all your work is set in that fictional town and because it's only a part of a blog that's interesting in its own right.

December 12, 2011 at 3:19 PM  
OpenID jenniecoughlin said...

Awww! Thanks, Anne! What can I say, I like to break the rules. That's one (of many) reasons I went indie.

December 12, 2011 at 3:38 PM  
Blogger Cathryn Leigh said...

Thanks for the Advice Anne. I was thinking that would be pretty crazy. My blog isn't that great at the moment. It's not all that focused either and I'm sensing that is what I need to work on to make it great. Still trying to figure it all out (including myself at times).

:} Cathryn Leigh

December 12, 2011 at 7:02 PM  
Blogger Icy Sedgwick said...

I'd disagree with #6 up to a point. Posting weekly flash fiction is a great way to get involved with the #FridayFlash community on Twitter, and it's an easy way to build a network of followers if you're all sharing flashes and chatting about them. A lot of people discovered my blog through Friday Flash and comment on the other posts as well. It's probably not a good idea to post them if you plan on submitting them somewhere but flash is a good way to introduce people to what you actually write - I've had people buy my book based on the strength of the flashes I've posted. Plus there are some REALLY good stories out there!

December 13, 2011 at 4:42 AM  
Blogger Patricia Gligor said...

I especially liked your advice to use a background and font that are easy on the eyes. I've been to so many sites where I had to strain to read the post.
I think a blog should be visually appealing, easy to read and simple to comment on.

December 13, 2011 at 6:54 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jennie--As I said, creative people are always finding ways around the rules. Still, you gotta know what they are to have the fun of breaking them.

Cathryn--You're still in the fun stage--discovering your path. Don't rush things; savor the moment.

Icy--I think of the FlashFridays as a kind of recurring blogfest. I should probably have mentioned it specifically along with other blofests and contests. If you're not planning to publish those, blogfests of all sorts create community.

Patricia--When you're first choosing a template, the exotic ones are so tempting. Hard to choose one that looks boring, but they're usually easier to read.

December 13, 2011 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Madeleine said...

LOL! Loved these.
My pet peeve is white text on dark backgrounds. Ouch! My eyeballs too! I actually get migraines from some blogs.

I like a blog to show an identity and not be too much bits of waffly this and drab that. If its a knitting blog, then it should talk about knitting not everything else under the sun and a bit of knitting thrown in.
Great pointers.

December 14, 2011 at 3:27 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Madeline--I think there must be people with more sensitive eyeballs than others. Obviously the dark backgrounds don't bother everybody as much as us, but bloggers need to know they're limiting visitors with that kind of template.

I don't mind an eclectic blog as long as it consistently offers interesting stuff that's part of the writer's personality. If you have "Knitting Mondays" and "Cat- herding Thursdays" that's fine if it's part of an author's persona or reflects their work. And it's consistent. Knowing what to expect is what makes readers keep coming back.

December 14, 2011 at 11:26 AM  
Anonymous Maggie Bolitho said...

Wish I'd found this a few months ago when I started my website. This should be compulsory reading for all new bloggers - not to follow like a rigid code but to have a sense of why some things work better than others.

So far I haven't done anything drastically wrong. But give me a little more time and I'm sure I'll get there.

Thanks again. I've got this bookmarked, I'm about to send it to a couple of friends and I'll retweet it.

December 14, 2011 at 11:04 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Maggie--I'm glad you found it helpful. Thanks a bunch for spreading the word!

December 15, 2011 at 10:12 AM  
Blogger p.m.terrell said...

Once again, you've posted a super blog that all of us needed to read! I've bookmarked this one and the first part, as well. I have been consumed with guilt at times because I did not write a blog every day of the week like so many others do... Writing three books under contract simultaneously has left me little time. And your blog has cut to the chase and made it easier for me to make the most of the blogs I write. Thank you!

December 15, 2011 at 12:49 PM  
Anonymous Megan Richey Olsen said...

THANK YOU for #19. I'm just getting my own author website/blog going, and it's frustrating when nearly 100% of comments are nothing but a link to another webpage. Not even a "hey, how are ya?" I feel like that's just inconsiderate. Manners do carry over to the internet, people! :)

December 15, 2011 at 11:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

December 16, 2011 at 7:01 AM  
Anonymous Sally said...

I've only just started a blog so I was holding my breath as I read this, sure I'd have already blundered on most points! This is incredibly helpful for a new blogger, thank you

December 16, 2011 at 9:14 AM  
Blogger Heather Kelly said...

Love this! As always, great advice, Anne. I love especially your point about not getting fixated on followers. Make real connections, and your blog will grow!

December 16, 2011 at 9:49 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

p.m.--Writing multiple books to deadline is enormous pressure. You don't need any more. Blogging should be enjoyable, not a slog. Glad I could help you slow it down to a reasonable level.

Meghan--Spammy blog comments are annoying but inevitable. I just had to delete one here. When you're just starting, you want comments, but not that kind.

Sally--Glad I could help. There are a lot of not-so-new bloggers who could use this advice too.

Heather--I only had about 5 followers for the first six months. It simply takes a while. People who have a lot of followers aren't necessarily any better at blogging than you--they've just been around longer.

December 16, 2011 at 10:30 AM  
Blogger The Daring Novelist said...

One SEO mistake that you made that is very important:

Do NOT delete old blogs, no matter how erratic they were. Maybe delete some old posts if they are embarrassing, but Google considers the age of the site to be very important in ranking.

If you start posting regularly, it won't matter how often or not you posted early on. And if and old post was well written, even if not on topic, it will still have SEO juice.

The only thing to delete are things which embarrass you. (And be prepared that people will still be able to find those things -- but not in the context of something you are presenting proudly now.)

December 16, 2011 at 7:54 PM  
Anonymous Wing said...

Its a very useful list. I'm committing so many of them, have to get my behaviour check. Regarding posting the unpublished book, is there no way around it, like an excerpt? Does that applies too to e-book?

December 17, 2011 at 4:29 AM  
OpenID kenradaniels.com said...

Great advice! I can think of several bloggers who violate most of these points, and whine that they can't keep followers.

My pet peeves are bloggers who are soooo peppy and up that they're exhausting to read. But I'll click away immediately if the posts are riddled with typos and bad grammar and word usage mistakes. Our blogs are reflections of us and our professionalism, and deserve the two minutes it takes to proofread.

December 17, 2011 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Daring--Thanks so much for the advice! Yes. If you plan to resume blogging right now, don't delete the old one. But if you've got a dead blog hanging in cyberspace, it's like saying "I'm unreliable and don't give a $&@#" --which isn't worth some SEO benefit you might get if you decide to take up blogging six months from now. A dead or aborted blog is really going to hurt you if you're querying right now or trying to sell a self-pubbed book.

Wing--If you've got a self-pubbed ebook you want to promote, it's OK to post an excerpt. It's already published and you're just advertising it. But don't blog any more than a paragraph or two if your book is unpublished and you hope to get a traditional publisher some day. If you're published, check your contract, but most publishers don't allow you to publish excerpts without permission.

Kenra--I hear you about the chirpy blogs. Especially if they're constantly bragging about their sales rankings and stats. Too many people cross the line from positive thinking into boasting.

December 17, 2011 at 10:48 AM  
Anonymous Barbara Morgenroth said...

I'm Jewish. We kvetch. I also get whatever disease they feature on that week's episode of House. It's genetic.

December 18, 2011 at 8:28 AM  
Anonymous Joe Vasicek said...

This is a pretty good list. I would add that it's a good idea to keep paragraphs short, with each one no longer than three or four sentences. It's very hard to skim a wall of text.

But really, the key is to get out and own what you're doing, not to feel like you have to follow somebody else's long list of rules. When I first started blogging in 2007, I broke maybe half of these rules, and I didn't care. Gradually, I realized on my own that I needed to fix that, and the blog became much more professional while retaining its character. With blogging especially, the way to distinguish yourself is with voice, and that's not something anyone can tell you how to do.

December 18, 2011 at 8:49 AM  
Anonymous Jack Scott said...

Good, solid advice. Bloggers would do well to read and digest. I'm ashamed to admit that I break two of the golden rules. I blog every day (mostly) and mine is a personal journal. However, it seems to have caught on. God knows why!

December 18, 2011 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Barbara--If you can kvetch funny--you can do anything. Woody Allen has made rather a nice living at it.

Joe--That's a good reminder. I meant to imply short paragraphs when I warned against "dense" posts and advised using "lots of white space, bullets and numbering."

Jack--If it's working for you, great. If it ain't broke...

December 18, 2011 at 9:20 AM  
Blogger David Gaughran said...

Great advice, Anne.

December 18, 2011 at 9:37 AM  
Blogger The Daring Novelist said...

Anna: ah, you were thinking short term. I was thinking of the value of a site that is four or five or ten years old (even if most of those years were not active) which is really gold.

If you're talking less than a year, then that's a different story.

December 18, 2011 at 1:12 PM  
Blogger Sioux said...

Anne--Your advice was snappy and spot-on.

December 18, 2011 at 1:20 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

David--Thanks much. That's high praise coming from one of the most popular bloggers in the business!

Daring--Yes, I'm talking to those people who played around with Blogger two years ago and started a blog "written by" the protag of the WIP they've since abandoned, wrote one post and never visited it again. Those blogs are not doing their authors any favors.

Sioux--Glad it helps!

December 18, 2011 at 1:35 PM  
Anonymous Dianna Graveman said...

Loved this post (and your advice) so much that I blogged about your blog! Thanks for the inspiration. I could definitely learn a thing or two (or three) from you about blogging.

December 18, 2011 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger The Daring Novelist said...

Got wires crossed again -- Yes, I'm talking about the same people. Seriously, those blogs which haven't been written on for two years or three years or four years can be gold.

Sure they don't help you while they are sitting idle (i.e. during the short term) but they are so much more valuable in terms of internet power, that there are SEO gurus who literally create tons of idle blogs and websites just to let them sit around for years so they age properly.

However, I get your point that if someone is looking for you now, you'd rather they don't find a lot of junk.

(It is, unfortunately, short sighted of publishing professionals, who don't realize how important that large volume of "old junk" is to SEO -- if they want you to have a platform, you've got to have that junk. However if you are trying to sell to someone who doesn't know that... well, you're stuck with what they want.)

December 18, 2011 at 4:12 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Dianna--Thanks much for the shout out. I've just been over to visit your blog. Lots of good stuff there.

Daring--Thanks for letting us know that blogs, like wine, improve with age. OK authors--Don't delete that old blog--but DO update it, change the name from "Mumbles and Grumbles from Myrtle the Mousie" to "YourName's Blog" and start posting at least once a month, OK? Preferably posts aimed at the paranormal erotic romance crowd you're writing for now, instead of the 2nd-grade chapter-book readers you were trying to reach when you started it two years ago. Otherwise you look like a complete amateur. Publishing is a business. Be businesslike.

December 18, 2011 at 4:31 PM  
Blogger Lynn said...

Thanks Anne, appreciate the advice (came by way of Dianna Graveman).

December 19, 2011 at 7:49 AM  
Anonymous Elizabeth Hyder said...

Thank you so much for posting this! It has been very helpful to me.

December 19, 2011 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger Becky Black said...

One I'd add is forgetting to make it easy to share. If other people are as lazy as me, then if there isn't a button to click to share to Facebook or Twitter or wherever, then far fewer people will actually do it.

What, I've got to copy the link, go to Twitter, start a tweet, paste the link, then think of something to say too? That sounds too much like work! Gimme a button and a couple of clicks.

December 19, 2011 at 11:12 AM  
Blogger Catherine Noble said...

Some sage advice right there. Having a relatively new author blog, I'll need to take heed of some of your points! Thank you :)

December 19, 2011 at 11:19 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Lynn--Welcome. I really appreciate Dianna's shout-out.

Elizabeth--Glad to help

Becky--VERY good point. Thanks. I need to add that to my "how to blog" list: Make sure there's a "share" button!

Catherine. I figure I've made a full set of mistakes so you don't have to. :-)

December 19, 2011 at 7:32 PM  
Anonymous Steven Lewis said...

Hi Anne,

What a great post. I confess I have been guilty of many of these sins, especially (in my, er, youth) dark backgrounds and light text!

December 20, 2011 at 12:11 AM  
Blogger Callie Leuck said...

I slowly learned a lot of this last April... and I must admit I still appreciate the experience bloggers kindly sharing their lists of "how to be a good blog neighbor" every so often. I had never considered link roundups. I see people do them and sometimes they are quite enjoyable.

December 20, 2011 at 9:39 AM  
Blogger Dasia said...

This is the best blogging advice I've ever read!

Every point is so freakin' true I'm going to bookmark it and print it out and tattoo it on myself (well, on my heart anyway.)

Thanks for this, it's the first time I've seen your blog and you've just gained yourself a loyal follower. Can't wait to check out your archive. :)

December 20, 2011 at 2:28 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Steven--Since I was totally Goth as a teenager, I relate. But as our eyes age, our taste matures (one hopes.)

Callie--I love reading round-ups, but I don't do them myself. Too much work. But they're a great idea--especially if you blog more than once a week.

Dasia--Thanks for the kudos! I hope you have fun surfing around the archives.

December 20, 2011 at 2:34 PM  
Anonymous Ella Stradling said...

Hi Anne,

Thanks. I'm taking your advice right now and commenting! I had no idea how or where to start with this and your points all make so much sense. You've given me a lot to think about.

December 20, 2011 at 2:59 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ella--Thanks for commenting. I'm glad the advice helps. If it keeps you from wasting valuable writing time, I've done my job. :-)

December 21, 2011 at 10:35 AM  
Anonymous Honey Wood said...

I have just found your blog and I must say it is the best read I've found all day - new to blogging so it is all still very much a mystery to me. Thanks, will follow this with relish.

January 4, 2012 at 12:53 PM  
OpenID runswithblisters said...

Thanks for the great advice, Anne. I also began blogging recently and find these ideas helpful. Now off to create an email address for my blog. Can’t believe I didn’t think of that before. I was afraid that blog-oriented emails would get lost in my main, catch-all email. Now, no worries!

January 5, 2012 at 9:08 AM  
Anonymous Joie Lake said...

My first visit to your site a wealth of information here to print out and save.

One tip, I've not seen, and if it has been included, my apologies.

I once thought I was honoring an exciting inventive writer and published her entire post on my site. Even though I gave her accolades and credits, it was not that long before I received a mildly unfriendly and extremely curt email stating I had not right to publish her without her permission. My crimson face did not pale for weeks!

January 16, 2012 at 5:20 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Honey and blisters--If I can save some new bloggers from having to learn by trial and error the way I did, I'll feel I've succeeded.

Joie--That blogger was clueless. Some people ask me for permission to reprint, and some don't, but I'm always pleased, as long as there's credit and a link. It's free publicity--what's not to like?

January 16, 2012 at 5:29 PM  
Blogger Arlee Bird said...

Whew! A lot of good content here. My philosophy agrees with much of what you say here. There are a few things that I do that you disagree with, but I guess it's preference and not dogma. Excellent guide about what not to do.

An A to Z Co-Host
Tossing It Out
Twitter: @AprilA2Z

February 8, 2012 at 5:21 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Arlee--These are definitely just guidelines. Take what helps and ignore the rest. I follow blogs that break every one of these rules. And when I step in a pile of dogma, all I want is to scrape it off my shoe :-)

February 8, 2012 at 7:25 PM  
Blogger Sensei J. Richard Kirkham B.Sc. said...

I've spent over 30 years in sales and pr. I laughed when you said

"When you write a book...

This person is reading the blog first off

Second this will generate more comments!

May 26, 2012 at 3:13 PM  
Anonymous Jane Carroll said...

Great information...some confirmation and some admonishment. Overall, a lot of things that I can use. Thank you!

June 3, 2012 at 2:06 PM  
Anonymous Melinda said...

This is one of the best lists of tips for creative writers on blogging that I've read! I have a "business" blog (my day job) and my "author" blog where I'm trying to build a readership for my creative writing, and reading your post reminds me of how different they are.

I especially like your suggestion about not posting too often. Because I post several times a week on the work blog, I sometimes feel compelled to do the same on my author blog. When really, I should be posting as often as I can and spending most of my creative writing time on finishing my book and producing new stories for publication.

Thank you!

October 7, 2012 at 7:01 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Richard--I fell down on the job with responding to comments here, didn't I? Yeah, those know-it-all newbies are good for a laugh. A little knowledge is indeed a dangerous thing as Mr. Pope said.

Jane--I love it when people find my posts helpful!

Melinda--I think the author blog and the business blog are two different animals. Lots of authors read business blog instructions and believe they should hammer potential customers into submission with a barrage of words. I don't know if that works in business, but it's not true in the arts. We need to be cool and sophisticated, not needy. Let people come to us. :-)

October 8, 2012 at 7:06 PM  
Blogger Lillian Csernica said...

Thank you so much for these tips. I've just joined the blogosphere and I really appreciate help with the "Dos and Don'ts."

March 27, 2013 at 1:38 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Lillian--I'm so glad to know they help! You can find lots more blogging tips in the book I co-wrote with Catherine Ryan Hyde: How to be a Writer in the E-Age Only $2.99 :-)

March 27, 2013 at 2:12 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Great article, Anne! Wish I'd read it before I had my web guru set up my blog with a black background on the page. Thanks for all the good tips. Writers definitely need to hang together.
Jill Landis

May 10, 2013 at 10:26 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jill--Your web guru should have known better! Younger people tend to like the dark background/light font. It looks "edgy", and most younger people can read it without too much trouble. It's older eyes that can't read it easily. If you write YA, it might not be so much of a barrier.

Yes: networking with other writers is so important. We don't want to market to writers, but we want to learn from each other.

May 11, 2013 at 9:26 AM  
Blogger Geanie Roake said...

Hi Anne, This is such a great article.I'd love to repost it on my own blog, but thought I'd ask first.
I'm not exactly sure how to do this since we're on different sites, but my thought is to copy and paste, with your web address attached.
O.K. by you?

December 27, 2013 at 1:08 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Geanie--I'm so glad you like the post! Sure. You can repost part or all of this on your blog as long as you credit me and link back to the blog. That's called the rule of "creative commons", which most bloggers use unless they put a copyright on the blog. If you wanted to be really nice, you could link to the book I wrote with Catherine Ryan Hyde (Amazon's #1 bestseller last summer) HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE. It has a whole series of chapters on blogging for authors. http://www.amazon.com/Writer-E-Age-E-Sanity-Edition-ebook/dp/B008EKT5UE/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1364061933&sr=1-1&keywords=How+to+be+a+writer+in+the+e-age Thanks!

December 27, 2013 at 2:40 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Geanie--Oh, yes, you can just copy and paste. It will come out green on your blog, but if you hit that little "Tx" symbol on the toolbar, it removes the formatting (and the green background).

December 27, 2013 at 2:43 PM  
Blogger R.T. II said...

Wish I saw this sooner. Very good advice!

July 22, 2014 at 8:46 AM  
Blogger Johan van Essen said...

Great blog, I recognized a lot of your tips. I find it very difficult to write regularly, having little to write about sometimes. But your blog got me motivated again. So thanks for that!

October 29, 2015 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Johan--I'm glad this post has motivated you! I find the best thing is to write several posts when I'm in the "blogging zone" and then post them on a regular schedule.

October 29, 2015 at 3:52 PM  

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