I hit hundreds of writers’ blogs every week (except this week, when my Internet connection has been squirrelly. Arrgghh.) But I do like to keep up with followers and people who comment here.
Thing is—with all those blogs to check—I only have a moment for each one, so some of you are losing me. If I can’t grasp in a moment what your blog is about, who you are, what you write—and comment or follow if I choose, I’m out of there.
I’m not saying this is true of every blog reader. There may be lots of
blocked writers leisurely surfers who have time to waste linger in the blogosphere. But most of us have other priorities. Like our own blogs.
In an interesting post last Thursday, social media guru Robert M. Caruso of Bundlepost likened social media to a freeway, where thousands of cars pass by every minute. He says you need to have a fleet of cars of your brand on that freeway, so you can catch the attention of your audience, who are standing by the side of the road for only few short minutes each day.
Excellent advice as far as it goes: Tweet often.
But the truth is, more and more people are like you: driving on the freeway. Fewer and fewer are on the side of the road waiting for great content to come by. So your audience is no longer standing still—even for a few minutes. They’re sailing along on the freeway with you.
So you’d better be able to get your message across in an instant.
Here are some things that aren’t grabbing me during my drive-by visits.
1) Your site takes too long to load. If you have animation on your site, or lots of graphics, you’re stealing reading time from yourself. If I’ve got a minute, and you take 30 seconds for loading—your content loses out. If you’re an illustrator or write for small children, yes, your blog needs graphics. But if you’re a writer, don’t snail down your loading time with a lot of visuals. And keep in mind that lots of people are reading you in RSS feeds or on other devices, so they don't see the graphics at all.
2) No focus. If your name is buried somewhere at the bottom of the page, I can’t see what kind of stuff you write, and you call your blog “meanderings in the mush of my mind,” I’m gone. Your blog is like your book’s first page or your story’s lead—you gotta have a hook.
3) Music. I’ve yammered about this before. Unless you’re a musician hawking your wares, skip the sound track. If I want to listen to music, I’ll choose my own, thanks—and chances are yours isn’t in the same key.
4) Your posts are simply snippets of your WIP. This tells me:
a. You’re a newbie: professionals don’t do this. You’re throwing away your first rights and embarrassing your future, better-writer self.
b. You’re needy and trolling for praise. (If you want critique, go to forums like Absolute Write or AgentQuery Connect )
c. You’re not thinking about your audience. I have no idea what your book is about or who these characters are, and I don’t have time to find out.
The exception to this is blogfests. When everybody’s publishing a “first kiss” scene or whatever, all those entering are reading each other’s posts. That's an excellent way to make friends and find writers whose work you like.
I also enjoy reading the occasional bit of microfiction or a short poem—but remember that’s “publishing” so the piece can’t be submitted to most contests or journals after you’ve posted it.
5) You thwart comments, with--
a. No comment button, Apparently there is a new program some bloggers are using that requires a secret handshake to be allowed to read the comment thread or make a comment of your own. If I can see there are “10 comments,” but can’t read them until I search the site for instructions, I probably won’t.
b. Making us jump through hoops. I’ve said before that word verification is annoying. I’ve never run into any spambots in over a year without it. Some bloggers have told me they do have trouble with bots, so I understand—but realize you’re less likely to get comments when you put up obstacles. And making people “await moderation” eliminates the possibility of interaction with other commenters. So unless your blog is routinely visited by trolls, keep comments open on a new post or “moderate” at least once an hour. Old posts do collect spam, so screen comments on posts more than a week old, but if you’re holding comments in limbo for days, you’re sabotaging yourself. Courtnee Howard has some great tips on blog moderation at the Best Damn Creative Writing Blog
6) No follower button. You make people subscribe to your blog by email in order to find you again. My inbox fills with 100s of emails daily, so I’m not going to sign up for one more thing to clog it up unless your content is spectacular—or you’re an industry professional I need to follow. Even then, I’ll read you a whole lot less than if you were a networked blog that appears on my Dashboard. (Interesting that Blogger named it a “dashboard”—in keeping with our freeway theme.) One agency blog switched from WordPress to something that’s not networked a while ago, and I’ve gone from reading it daily to maybe once a month. If I can find where I’ve got it bookmarked.
7) Your posts are too long, dense, and/or you’ve posted about more than one subject. Even if you have fascinating things to say about your new iphone app, the use of animal imagery in Faulkner, and Kate Middleton’s taste in underwear, if you can’t link them in one spectacular flash of brilliance, discuss them in separate posts. It all coagulates into an unreadable mass when we’re speed reading.
8) You come across as condescending or narcissistic. 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. If somebody disagrees with you in a comment, argue respectfully, or delete 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 author—or an agent’s assistant who’s about to read your query.
And please NO STATS! Yes. Bloggers love us some stats. We check daily to see how many devoted fans are reading our bon mots. But this is something to do in the privacy of your own dashboard. If you have fewer hits than average, you look like a loser. With more, you look like a narcissist. If anybody gives a rodent’s derriere about your stats, they’ll check with Alexa, blogbiz or another blog rating site.
9) Your blog is too busy or hard to read. Keep in mind that dark text on a light, solid background is the most reader-friendly. White or pale space is soothing. Don’t make your content a needle in a gadget-stack. Too much going on and a reader doesn’t see any of it. Forest/trees and all that. And I’m not a big fan of the new format some bloggers are using that looks like a newspaper, with a bunch of blogpost headlines you have to click through to get the content. You’re making me load one more page and taking time I haven’t got. It does have a cool look, but it's a barrier to readers.
10) Advertising. Ads are distracting, undermine your credibility, and usually pay very little. If you’re a writer and “monetize” with Google, they’re going to post ads for rip-off vanity presses, fake contests, and bogus agencies. Yes, I know some higher-end advertisers do pay pretty well. I’ve reached a high enough Alexa rank that I’m getting offers, but I’m still not going there unless it’s a product I already love. Your blog is like the cover of your book—the hub of your “brand” as a writer. Would you sell advertising space on your book jacket?
But note: it’s fine to have click-through thumbnails of your own titles or favorite books by other authors. In fact it’s smart. If I like a blog, I’ll take a look at your books, and sometimes I even buy them.
BTW, if I haven’t commented on your blog, it doesn’t mean I think you’re doing anything wrong—or even that I’m not reading you. I haven’t got time for many comments. Also, I tend to hit blogs randomly and I may have not made it to yours yet.
What about you? What attracts/repels you when blog surfing?