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Anne R. Allen's Blog

...WITH RUTH HARRIS

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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, August 23, 2015

What Should a Novelist Blog About? Do's and Don'ts for Author-Bloggers

by Anne R. Allen


When I teach blogging to new writers, the most common question I get is: "What should I blog about?"

My answer isn't the same as you'll hear from the major blogging gurus, because most of them are teaching people how to blog for its own sake.

They will all tell you to find a niche and stick with it. And they'll also tell you to blog at least 3 times a week.

But I say if you're blogging to promote a fiction writing career, forget niches and just be yourself. And don't let your blog take over your fiction writing time. This is why I recommend slow blogging once a week or less (but preferably to a schedule.)

Your blog subject matter should depend on your genre and where you are in your career.

Of course, first you need to get that career started. When you're a newbie, your blogging goals will be different from those of an established author. An established author is blogging for fans and readers that already exist. But a newbie is blogging to attract readers in the first place.

1) If you're an unpublished or newly-published indie author/blogger, your primary goal is to get your name out there. 


The best way to do that is to network with other bloggers. Your colleagues can be your best resource early in your career.

I often harp on how silly it is to market to your fellow writers, but when you're starting out, you're not marketing. You're networking. And other writers can help you form a great support network.

You also want to network with book review bloggers and bloggers interested in your subject matter.

Most people who read blogs and comment regularly are also bloggers themselves, so this is your potential core audience when you're starting out.

Blog hops can be valuable at this stage of your career. Jump on any opportunity to participate.

Go to other blogs in your niche—that's readers, reviewers and other authors—to see what they're blogging about and get to know them. When you find yourself leaving a long comment: that's your next blog post!

A great place to network is the Insecure Writers Support Group, founded by sci-fi author Alex J. Cavanaugh. The Insecure Writers have even published an anthology full of inspiring, helpful tips for new writers (and it's free right now!) Their blog always has great tips, and they have blog hops that help you get to know a bunch of other bloggers fast. They have a new one coming up in September.

I also highly recommend Kristen Lamb's Blog for top-notch writing, publishing, and social media advice 4 days a week and her We Are Not Alone website for networking.

And the Writer's Village, administered by Dr. John Yeoman (he has a PhD in Creative Writing) is a great place to learn craft and hang out with other writers, especially if you're in the UK.

Also spend some time on sites that cater to your genre. I highly recommend Romance University for romance and women's fiction writers and Adventures in YA Publishing and YA Highway for Young Adult writers.

If you're planning on a traditional publishing career, you should also be regularly visiting agents' blogs like Janet Reid's, BookEnds and for Christian writers, Books and Such. You can also network with writers in the query process at QueryTracker and AgentQuery .

If you think you might go indie,
you can network on blogs like Joe Konrath's, The Creative Penn, Indies Unlimited and The Passive Voice.

Visiting blogs can be like hanging out with co-workers in the coffee room or cafeteria at a new job. You'll find a huge amount of information just by listening. Think of your blog as your cubicle where people stop by to say hello. But first you have to introduce yourself in a general meeting place.

This means yes, you CAN talk about writing and publishing when you're starting out. You can commiserate and congratulate each other as you ride the roller coaster of this crazy business.

As long as you don't complain too much. Believe me, we've all felt the temptation to vent about the unfairness of the industry, the stupidity of some reviewers, and sheep-like buyers of badly written bestsellers, but I guarantee that stuff won't help your career.


2) Once you've got followers and you've got some books published, it's time to switch gears.



You don't have to stop blogging about writing entirely, but mix it up so you can start attracting more non-writers—especially readers in your niche. (Do as I say, not as I do,  unless you have, ahem, a how-to book for writers.)

Remember people surf the Web looking for two things: information and entertainment.

Your blog can spin a good yarn, make people laugh, provide information, or all three, as long as you put it in your own honest, unique voice and you're not too whiny or preachy. You want to provide a way for people to relate to you on a personal level.

Of course, first you need to know who you're blogging for. If you're writing hard sci-fi, you're going to want to reach a different readership than if you're writing cozy mysteries.

Try picturing your ideal audience when you're deciding what to blog about. What movies and TV shows might appeal to people who would like your book? What's their age group? What other interests do those people have?

If you're writing YA dystopian, blogging news about the next Divergent film might attract your ideal demographic. Tweet news about the stars and you'll get those fans coming to your blog. Write mysteries? Discuss classic mysteries or all the retellings of the Sherlock Holmes stories in film and new books.

If you're writing Regency romance, run a series on your favorite films set in the era, or talk costumes and history. Or join a Janeite community and weigh in on controversial topics like the mental health of Jane Austen's mother and whether Colin Firth is the one and only Darcy.

What Works in a Writer's Blog



This is by necessity a partial list. Please feel free to make more suggestions in the comments.

Do consider any of the following:

  • Interviews and Profiles: These don't have to be interviews with authors, although that's a fantastic way to network AND reach readers. Write crime novels? Interview a cop, forensic expert or private detective. Write bookstore cozies? Profile a series of bookstore clerks and visit their blogs. Any time you write a post about somebody other than yourself, you bring those peopleand their friendsto your site.
  • Curated lists: Do you surf the 'Net looking for articles and blogposts on your favorite subjects? Collect the urls of the best ones and recommend them in a regular list on your blog. This is one of the best ways of getting to know top bloggers. Put them on a list and they'll get a Google alert and stop by your blog. Maybe they'll even invite you to guest post. And if you recommend a lesser-known blogger...you've made a friend! Some blogs that have great curated lists are Joel Friedlander's This Week in Blogs and Elizabeth S. Craig's Sunday Twitterific.
  • Informative pieces: This is where you can use all that research you did for your books that sounds too much like "info-dumping" in your novel.
  • Reviews and spotlights of books in your genre: Reviews are hard work and sometimes a thankless job, but good reviewers get a lot of respect in the industry. Spotlights are easier, so you might want to intersperse them. 
  • Film reviews and info about other media in your genre. Alex J. Cavanaugh's blog is a great example of how to do this right.
  • Comic or inspirational vignettes about your life. This can be almost anything, as long as it's entertaining, has a point, and doesn't turn into a pity party.
  • Stuff about your pets. Seriously. Never underestimate the power of a cute puppy or grumpy cat to draw readers.
  • Opinions (as long as you avoid polarizing subjects: see below) Any opinion piece about publishing news will probably get a lot of readers in the bookish community. An opinion blog I love these days is hilarious Irish writer Tara Sparling's blog. 
  • History and nostalgia pieces: Write historicals, or novels set in an earlier era? Anything about that era will be of interest to your readers. This is where people writing books of military history can share their own experiences. If you lived through history, the world wants to know about it. A blog is the perfect place to share.
  • Travel pieces about where you live or the settings of your books. Even if you've only made the journey via Google maps and Wikipedia, your readers will be interested. If it's your hometown, even better. Interview local business owners and people who live and work in similar places to your fictional ones. 
  • How-to's and recipes. Write crafting mysteries? Offer interesting quilt patterns or knitting directions. Have a character who likes to fly kites? Tell readers how to build one. And no matter what genre you write, if food is involved, people will enjoy a recipe for it. Or maybe you can offer a recipe for the busy writer to throw in the crockpot, or a tasty snack to serve to your book group.
  • Almost anything of general interest—especially to the kind of people you think might like your books. Anything that might make a good magazine article will make a good blogpost—especially a magazine your ideal reader is likely to buy.
  • A series of articles or vignettes you hope to make into a book. This is especially true of nonfiction, and fiction and poetry are becoming more acceptable too. But do note that if you get a traditional contract, you will be asked to take down those posts because of "non-compete" rules. Also, a blogged short piece may not be eligible for contests or "first rights" publication in a traditional magazine.


Not so Much


These topics don't do much to advance your career:


  • Daily word count. Sorry. Nobody cares. (Unless you're a member of a writers' group encouraging each other on—as sometimes happens during NaNoWriMo.) Although the original "weblogs" were often personal diaries, today's blogs are "other" oriented rather than "self" oriented and you need to write stuff that's interesting to people who don't already know you.
  • Rejection sorrows and personal woes. These belong in your private journal. The one with the lock on it.
  • Your writer's block. Ditto.
  • Teachy-Preachy stuff. Especially if you're not an expert. Don't lecture people on how to get published if you're not.
  • Apologies for not blogging. We know it's hard to get around to the old blog. You don't need to tell us the specifics. Just call it "slow blogging" and get on with something interesting.
  • Writing about writing exclusively, unless you have a "how to" book for writers.
  • Religion or politics: unless your work is exclusively for people of the same faith or political persuasion. Or you live in a part of the world with interesting politics and you have a unique viewpoint. (Extra credit if you're in a war zone.)
  • Your WIP.  If you want to write your novel in public and get feedback, Wattpad is a great place to do that. It's password protected and posting there is not officially "publishing".  Remember every novel needs editing. Your future self will thank you for not publishing that "s***y first draft". Remember the Internet is forever. 

Treat a blog as an expression of who you are


It's the face you offer the world. So be real and have fun. Think of your blog as something like your own version of Oprah magazine. It can be any collection of eclectic things that add up to you.

Blogging can lead you to unexpected places:

  • Sometimes blogging can take off and you find you'd rather blog than work on your WIP. There's nothing wrong with that. You may have a future as a professional blogger and content provider—a much more lucrative field than writing novels. Nina Badzin discovered she enjoyed blogging more than fiction writing and used her blog to launch a career as a freelance writer.
  • Or if you're a book review blogger, you may be invited to intern for an agent and even become an agent yourself. That's what happened to book blogger Danielle Smith, now an agent at Red Fox Literary

But if you have your heart set on being a novelist, remember your fiction must take priority. Slow blogging works! I'll be talking more about my version of slow blogging in future posts.


What about you, Scriveners? Do you have a blog? Do you have trouble deciding what to blog about? What's your favorite kind of blog to read? Have you tried to write a novel on your blog? How did it turn out? Do you have more suggestions for topics to blog about?


BOOK OF THE WEEK


FREE!

August 22-26
  

"Anne R. Allen's book of short stories explores womanhood in all seasons. I've read this book twice and get something new to appreciate each time. It is the kind of book one returns to periodically, just to revisit characters and stories like old friends that help clarify ages and stages of life and the changing world. Her poems are timely, tying stories together with theme, grace, and humor."
...Mary J. Caffrey


a short book of short stories

FREE!


Humorous portraits of rebellious women at various stages of their lives. From aging Betty Jo, who feels so invisible she contemplates robbing a bank, to neglected 10-year-old Maude, who turns to a fantasy Elvis for the love she's denied by her patrician family, to a bloodthirsty, Valley-Girl version of Madame Defarge, these women—young and old—are all rebelling against the stereotypes and traditional roles that hold them back. Which is, of course, why Grandma bought that car…



Great for the morning commute!

Narrated by C.S. Perryess and Claire Vogel



OPPORTUNITY ALERTS


The Ernest Hemingway Flash Fiction Contest. $10 fee Unpublished fiction. 1500 words or less. Simultaneous submissions ARE welcome. All entries will be considered for publication in Fiction Southeast. (a prestigious journal that has published people like Joyce Carol Oates) Winner gets $200 and publication. Deadline: Dec. 1st

The Central Coast Writers Conference. One of the best little Writers Conferences around! You can attend Anne's workshops on How to Write 21st Century Prose and How to Deal with Reviews and even have her critique your work. September 19-20.

Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest $4,000 in prizes. Entry fee $10 per poem. Submit poems in modern and traditional styles, up to 250 lines each. Deadline: September 30.

Real Simple's eighth annual Life Lessons Essay Contest FREE to enter, First prize: $3,000 for an essay of up to 1500 words on: "What Single Decision Changed Your Life?" Would your world now be completely different if, at some point in the past, you hadn't made a seemingly random choice? Deadline Sept 21.

BARTLEBY SNOPES CONTEST   $10 FOR UNLIMITED ENTRIES. Compose a short story entirely of dialogue. Must be under 2,000 words. Your entry cannot use any narration (this includes tag lines such as he said, she said, etc.). These are the only rules. 5 finalists will also appear in Issue 15 of the magazine. Last year they awarded $2,380 in prize money. Deadline: September 15.

Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers  Entry Fee $15. A prize of $1,500, publication in Glimmer Train Stories, and 20 copies of the prize issue is given quarterly for a short story by a writer whose fiction has not been published in a print publication with a circulation over 5,000. Using the online submission system, submit a story of 1,200 to 12,000 words. Deadline: August 31. 

Creative Nonfiction magazine is seeking new essays for an upcoming issue dedicated to MARRIAGE. TRUE STORIES about marriage from any POV: happy spouses, ex-fiancees, wedding planners, divorce attorneys. whoever. Up to 4000 words. $20 Entry fee. $1000 first prize. Deadline: August 31. 

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66 Comments:

Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Anne—Thank you for your usual savvy guidance! I knew Helen Gurley Brown (not very well) but I used to write for Cosmo. Article ideas often came from one of HGB's scribbled notes, perhaps only a few words or phrases about an idea or passing thought or transient observation, but they were invaluable.

Helen was super smart and I learned from her to WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING. Even if only a few words, those small notes were gold and became the basis for one of the most successful magazines ever. Blogging can work the same way Cosmo did and bloggers can learn from one of the masters.

Just in case you missed it, WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING. It’s one of the keys!

August 23, 2015 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Great advice, Ruth! Anything can be the foundation of a blogpost, so we should remember to always write it down! And as I say, if you find yourself writing a long comment on somebody else's blog...that's your next post for your own blog!

August 23, 2015 at 11:01 AM  
Blogger Linda Maye Adams said...

I'm the poster child of blog problems. I was in a blogging class, and ended up being the first blog everyone stopped following. I was constantly reinventing myself to find something to write about.

One of the big disasters early on was following the advice about writing about the research for the setting. I was co-writing a thriller set during the Civil War, so we did posts on Civil War. And every week, we would get emails of "How much is my gun worth?" Another was Microsoft Word tips for writers. People emailed me questions like I was a free help desk.

My suggestion is to try everything including the kitchen sink and see what sticks. I have a top ten widget, and I started noticing that two post were showing up regularly (and still do). They were on such ordinary topics that I didn't understand why people were interested. But I started writing more on the topic and have garnered more interest. Now I also blog on writing, mostly opinion, like on pantsing books which is really misunderstand and beat up upon. http://garridon.wordpress.com/

August 23, 2015 at 11:11 AM  
Blogger Tom Threadgill said...

Great post! I've almost given up blogging because it's such a struggle to come up with things to write about. Thanks for the encouragement!

August 23, 2015 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay early on, back in 2008, I blogged about a simple triad: my adventures in writing, work and myself. Worked well until 2013, when I decided to close-up shop and start over again from scratch. Readership plummeted (140+ subscribes to 1) and ideas started drying up.

I blog roughly twice a week on my main blog, with one post about adventures in writing and the other on whatever tickles my fancy (although I do keep it within the vein of what I've written about before). I also have Tumblr blog in which I recap the previous week's blogging activities.

Father Nature's Corner

August 23, 2015 at 11:31 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Linda--Great suggestion--don't get stuck in one kind of blogpost! Check your stats and see what's working. Thanks!

Your blog looks great! You have a unique perspective on the world as a writer/soldier. and Iraq war veteran.

August 23, 2015 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tom--Don't give up! I blogged for a full year and had almost no readers. But when they started to comment, their comments helped me think of new things to blog about.

August 23, 2015 at 11:40 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Also--I hear you about the "how much is my gun worth" kind of emails. It sounds funny, but it can get irritating Many people think bloggers are an infinite source of free information. We do need to protect ourselves or we could spend all our time answering questions for free. Now I direct people to the blog or my book or I say I'll address the subject in a blogpost.

August 23, 2015 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

G.B.--You've got more energy than I have. I know I couldn't maintain more than one blog. But that must mean you really enjoy it--and when you enjoy something, people can tell. They'll enjoy it too.

I do urge people not to delete a blog to change direction unless they absolutely have to. You can change everything on a blog but the url--header, subject matter, even your name. But if you keep that url, you'll keep your subscribers (well most of them) and Google will still be able to find you. It can take months for a new blog to make it into the search engines.

August 23, 2015 at 11:48 AM  
Blogger Tam Francis said...

Thank you again for your wonderful advice. I fall into the number 2 categoryand it seems to be going okay. I'm having fun, anyway with daily views of 50+ and weekly click-throughs to my book on Amazon (That's the point right?). I just need more product. Dang those edits...

I think I've avoided most of the NO SO MUCH, hee hee! Totally shared with my writer's group! Thanks again, Anne!

~ Tam Francis ~
www.girlinthejitterbugdress.com

August 23, 2015 at 12:19 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tam--It sounds as if you're doing it just right. And yes, those click-throughs are the big prize here. And when you've got more books, you have that lovely blog all established and fans who will gobble up the new material. Thanks for sharing!

August 23, 2015 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger Anne Gallagher said...

My blogs have mostly fallen by the wayside these days. Not because I have more than one, but because I'd rather spend the hour or so actually writing on my wips than wasting time trying to get a blog post finished. I think that's the bane of almost every writer. Unless of course you're a superstar (which I'm not) and you have a strict schedule (I don't) and help around the house (HAH!)

I think I'm posting about once a month now or less. And I know a lot of other writers in similar circumstances. It's hard to maintain a blog and following, especially when commenting takes up so much time. I guess I could call myself a super-slow blogger. Maybe a turtle blogger. Snail blogger?

And Ruth, I totally agree with you. Write down EVERYTHING. It could someday turn into a novel. Loved Helen G.B.

August 23, 2015 at 1:10 PM  
Blogger Leanne Dyck said...

I do have a much loved-blog and I write about many of the topics you mentioned. (Thank you for the thorough list.) I review books but am interested in learning more about you've labeled 'spotlights'. (What is the difference between reviews and spotlights, etc.)
Looking forward to reading more...

August 23, 2015 at 1:13 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Anne--A blog can be a burden when you have so much else to do. (And yes, I dream of having enough disposable income to have household help. I broke down and hired a gardener and my life is sooo much easier.) But I think a once a month blog is fine for a working author. It's a place where your readers can find you and interact and your writer friends can stop in for your news.

August 23, 2015 at 1:18 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Leanne--You're a long-time blogger and I'm sure you've fallen into a rhythm that's comfortable for you.

A "spotlight" as opposed to a review or an interview is simply posting a book with the cover and blurbs, but not writing an in-depth review. Lots of reviewers use spotlights to lighten their load. They might review one book a month, and the rest of the time, spotlight new books in their genre. We always spotlight the current book of our guest posters here.

August 23, 2015 at 1:24 PM  
Blogger Melodie Campbell said...

Anne, your advice is really good (as usual.) Early on (2011), I decided that since I was writing highly humorous books, and had been a comedy writer (standup) that my blog should reflect that. Not that it should be a constant pitch about my books. Instead, it should embrace the kind of comedy that someone would expect to *find* in my books. I certainly get the hits. Now whether these people also buy my books...that's the big question. Magic ball out there, anyone?

August 23, 2015 at 1:27 PM  
Blogger Carradee said...

Your description of Wattpad is inaccurate. You *can* make certain items "private", and you do need a password to post anything, but the default is to make things public (which still qualifies as published), and even the "private" one can be read by pretty much anybody who follows you on the site..

August 23, 2015 at 1:44 PM  
Blogger Jemi Fraser said...

Great advice :) I've learned so much from my blogging buddies over the years! They're definitely my network and support group and friends.

August 23, 2015 at 1:44 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Melodie--Definitely a humorist has a great opportunity to get their funny on in a blog. You want your blog tone to match your book tone and yours certainly does!

Do blog readers buy our books? Not a huge percentage, but I still think it's worth it.

August 23, 2015 at 2:11 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Carradee--I'm talking in terms of what the publishing industry considers to be "published". Work posted on sites you have to join, like Facebook or Wattpad are not technically considered "published" the way they are if they're posted on a blog.

You can post stories on Wattpad and still sell first rights. You can't if you put the same story on a blog.

August 23, 2015 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jemi--I agree. Blogging is one of the best ways to network, IMO. I've made so many good friends through my blog!

August 23, 2015 at 2:17 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Anne, this is just what I've been looking for. I've been so busy with writing projects, I've neglected my little Goodreads blog and want to reinvigorate it. Great ideas on where to go from here. Thanks so much. See you next Sunday. :) Paul

August 23, 2015 at 3:17 PM  
Blogger Leanne Dyck said...

Thank you for this information, Anne. I did notice that you regularly included a book at the end of your post but didn't know that's what it was called.

August 23, 2015 at 4:56 PM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

Hey Anne - great to see the plug for the audiobook of Why Grandma Bought That Car - it was great fun producing it. And thanks, too, for the blogging suggestions. I've chosen a somewhat narrow topic for my blog & have had a fine time researching & blogging about words (mostly etymologies) for the last few years at csperryess.blogpot.com -- keep up the fine work, Miss Allen.

August 23, 2015 at 4:58 PM  
Blogger Roland D. Yeomans said...

John Locke (the snake oil Kindle author) said something that made sense: write entertaining and amusing or touching posts -- if visitors find they like your posts, they will more likely take a chance that they will like your books.

It is a fine line -- having written a book, you need readers to read it -- and you need to get their attention, right? A blog is good way to get people to know and like your prose. Great post as always.

August 23, 2015 at 5:00 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Paul--I'm glad I've helped you get blogging again. But you're doing it right. The books should come first!

August 23, 2015 at 5:09 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

CS--I love the audiobook for Grandma! You and Claire did such a great job. You've got a nice little niche for your blog.

Everybody check out the Wordmonger at the address above. You'll learn the most amazing things!

August 23, 2015 at 5:11 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Roland--As much as John Locke has been discredited for buying reviews, he had some great ideas about marketing. I agree totally that I'm more likely to take a chance on a book if I like the writer's style and personality on their blog!

August 23, 2015 at 5:13 PM  
Blogger Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I've been blogging for years, something new every 2 days. Have many guest authors, some talk about their book, inspiration for it, etc. Others give writing tips. In-between I write tidbits about what I'm doing, about my own books, and my writing tips. And no religion or polictics. (I'm also a regular on three other blogs.)

August 23, 2015 at 6:46 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Marilyn--You are an amazement! I would give anything for 1/3 of your energy. I find I can't work more than 18 hours a day, but I realize I don't really measure up to people like you!!

August 23, 2015 at 7:56 PM  
Blogger Tara Sparling said...

Thanks so much for giving me a mention here, Anne. I found it made me less cynical for at least half an hour after I read it but don't worry, I'm fine again now.

A lot of my favourite author blogs are I think perhaps something very different to what they originally intended. Monitoring traffic and responses to certain posts, and doing more of on those topics, is excellent advice. As for opinion pieces, a lot of mine come from reading newspaper articles as well as other blogs, and possibly disagreeing with them. I also think that once a blogger is in their stride, having found their 'voice', they can write about anything they like and get away with it.

Another thing I agree wholeheartedly with you on is the slow blogging movement. There are blogs which post 4-5 times a week I know I should be devouring because of their style and content. I know it's not the same for everybody, but it puts me off reading them altogether, because I just don't have them time to trawl through all that material. If they only posted once a week, I'd never miss a word.

August 24, 2015 at 2:28 AM  
Blogger Meg Wolfe said...

This post certainly came at the right time for me! I have a fairly successful lifestyle blog that I started in 2010, but my heart was always in fiction. Tried to combine the two interests in a single blog, but that was a mess. It is actually easier for me to slow-blog two separate ones. VERY slow blog. Probably too slow. But your post helps me to remember what the heck I'm supposed to be doing and why, and it's going in my current Top Ten reference folder.

August 24, 2015 at 4:38 AM  
Blogger Kerry Ann @Vinobaby's Voice said...

Excellent post, Anne! I started as a mommy blogger years ago, shifted into a book/food focus, and lately...well, it's been not much of anything. Blogging took away valuable fiction writing time, so I let it slide. I need to get my blog engine revving again, and this is a reminder of how I should focus my time and blogging goals.

August 24, 2015 at 4:57 AM  
Blogger Bernardo Montes de Oca said...

Very informative! I was at a couple of writers' conf and they spoke of all these topics. I believe it's best to stick to one or two general POVs on the blog and not focus on trying to cover all of them.

August 24, 2015 at 8:04 AM  
Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Anne, thanks for mention me and the IWSG site! Sorry, was on vacation, but knew I had to come back to check out this post. Slow blogging once a week - definitely my style now.

August 24, 2015 at 8:49 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tara--I'm glad you recovered your cynicism quickly :-)

Blogs do need to change and grow with the author's career and also the audience's needs. Paying attention to traffic is very important. And voice is everything. Once you find that, you can be "yourself" on any number of topics.

I agree that people who blog 4-5 times a week are self-limiting. They drive away all but the least busy of their possible readers. I'm about to unsubscribe from several blogs that post too often.

August 24, 2015 at 9:15 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Meg--I'm honored to be in your Top Ten reference folder. I hope this helps you recharge your blogs!

August 24, 2015 at 9:16 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Kerry Ann--I hear you about blogging taking away valuable fiction writing time. But it is possible to do both if you schedule your time. Writing several posts at a time and then posting them to a schedule works for me.

August 24, 2015 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Bernardo--As Tara Sparling says above, you need to find one "Voice" for your blog and then you can blog on almost any subject. The hard part is finding that "you" voice that readers will connect with.

August 24, 2015 at 9:19 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alex--You deserve vacation time! You're such a hard working social networker as well as bestselling author. Slow blogging sure works for me!

August 24, 2015 at 9:20 AM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

Hey Anne,
Testing. Testing.

August 24, 2015 at 6:17 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

CS--Thanks! I'm checking to see if people get a nasty CAPTCHA if they try to comment, or if it's just an "I am not a robot" check box.

August 24, 2015 at 6:40 PM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

Great post. I'm still not on the blog train. Yikes! What is wrong with me? All I have to do is listen to you and make it happen. Thanks for another well informed push.

August 24, 2015 at 6:41 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Christine--I know I keep harping on about it. And I know it takes time. But a well-maintained blog looks great when you're querying. :-)

August 24, 2015 at 6:49 PM  
Anonymous Maureen Crisp said...

Hi Anne,
I always enjoy reading your blog and reference it often on my curated publishing tips and trends blog Craicer. I started my wekly blog 7 years ago because I had a book coming out and no web presence. So I set out to learn about the business. Through the ups and downs of life the weekly blog has been my deadline… my excuse for web surfing… and learning. It has got me a couple of speaking/ teaching gigs and I'm told is the go to site for the writers in my country. But every week I wonder whether I'm doing the right thing. My writing is for kids… My blog is for other writers. SIGH. I really don't want to start another blog for another audience… ah well I'll just keep on keeping on and something will gel… Thanks for commenting the other week I apprecite it.
Kia Kaha
maureen

August 25, 2015 at 4:40 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Maureen--I love your blog! And the post on thinking positive was great.

No--don't start another blog. Kids don't read blogs anyway. You are getting your name out there and that's the important thing.

Lots of writers have kids. :-)

I owe my whole career to this blog, and I blog for writers too. Keep on doing what you're doing!

August 25, 2015 at 4:50 PM  
Blogger ED Martin said...

Carradee, I've always heard that if something shows up in a Google search, it's considered published and you can't sell first rights to it. That would include anything posted publicly at Wattpad, Authonomy (RIP), or Writing.com or on your blog, but not anything posted on sites you have to join first, like Scribophile, or private postings on those other sites.

It's not a big deal if you plan to publish, but writers should probably check with their own agent or publisher to find out their personal policy.

August 25, 2015 at 6:36 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

ED--I was told by several agents that posting to Wattpad and Authonomy was not considered publishing, but you're right that it may change from agent to agent. (And publisher to publisher.)

Most agents seem happy to sign somebody who has posted to Wattpad (and they even seek them out) but they don't like novels that have been posted to a blog unless they have hundreds of thousands of subscribers. But that may be changing.

August 25, 2015 at 6:44 PM  
Blogger Elena Solodow said...

Thanks for the advice and the many links! I've just gotten back into blogging and am still struggling to get into the swing of figuring out what to post :)

August 26, 2015 at 9:22 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Elena--You're not alone. All new bloggers have the same problem. I hope this list helps you get inspired!

August 26, 2015 at 9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful blog with great information. So glad I found it!

August 26, 2015 at 10:21 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Anon--Thanks for stopping by. We are experimenting with allowing anonymous comments so that people new to blogging can comment.

A suggestion to writers posting anonymously because they don't have a Google or WP ID--sign your name at the end of your comment so you can still use blog comments as a way to get your name out there. That's the point of all this social media stuff. :-)

August 26, 2015 at 10:25 AM  
Anonymous Virginia King said...

Hi Anne
I've just discovered your blog. Thanks for your generous posts. I have some of the blogging issues of others -- finding time, what to blog about with readers in mind, tending towards posts about writing but not sure if it's interesting to readers ... But my other problem is my website which is custom-designed and has no standard blogging features, such as comments. Does a successful blog have to take comments? I'm not a great commenter myself -- I usually just read posts without commenting. My blog also didn't have an email subscription feature (until a week ago), only RSS -- and with RSS you don't know how many followers you have. You've outlined solutions to the time and subject issues in your post -- thank you -- but I'd love your opinion on the importance of comments.

August 28, 2015 at 5:51 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Virginia--Blogging is considered "social media" and social media is social. That's why comments ARE important. A blog should be interactive. Otherwise it's just one person pontificating, which doesn't make a reader feel very welcome.

I know a lot of authors aren't web savvy, so they find it easier to pay for a professional website. But if you do that, I think it's best to have a Wordpress or Blogger blog (Blogger is easier for cybermorons like me) which is easy, friendly and interactive. All you have to do is link to it from your website so it's no harder to get to than an internal blog within your website.

It will also give you an ID so you can comment easily on other blogs. Your comment went into spam because you don't have a blog ID. (I've just enabled comments by people without IDs as an experiment, so I'm checking spam carefully.)

Being on a major blogging platform also has the benefit of raising your SEO in a major way. Google is not going to find a little blog buried inside a website, but a blog that's on Wordpress or Blogger (especially Blogger, since it's owned by Google) will get noticed.

Also your RSS followers appear in the "followers" window, which you have an option of putting in your sidebar. Also you can check your Google analytics right on your dashboard and know how many people read each post, so you can see which posts are more popular.

You can also use MailChimp or another subscription service, although MailChimp is not for cybermorons. I had to pay a techie to help me set it up.

I hope that helps!

August 28, 2015 at 7:52 PM  
Anonymous Virginia King said...

Thanks so much, Anne. My web designer doesn't like Wordpress (gotta keep him onside) but I'll investigate Blogger. And thanks for the info re stats. I bought an online course to get savvy on MailChimp! I'll now check out "slow blogging" :-) Cheers.

August 28, 2015 at 9:15 PM  
Blogger Michelle Wallace said...

Hi Anne.
You have a lovely place here. I need to visit more often.
This is a great post.
Thanks for the list of what works in a writer's blog... some good ideas there.
I've been blogging since 2011. Actually, the writing came after the blogging.
To be honest, I prefer blogging to Twitter and FB.
Thanks also for the opportunity alerts.
Writer In Transit

August 29, 2015 at 4:34 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Virginia--All techies hate Blogger and make fun of it. But that's mostly because cybermorons can use it. Everything is done for you. And of course, there's no tech help, so if you run into a problem, you have to go ask a bunch of people in forums.

But for non-techies, Blogger is great. It depends on who is more important to you: your readers or the techies.

I'm coming out with a short ebook later in the year that will be a quick course in blogging for authors who don't want to mess with a lot of tech stuff.

August 29, 2015 at 9:28 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Michelle--I'm glad you like the opportunity alerts. I'm getting inspiring emails from readers who have won the contests or placed pieces in the magazines.

Blogging is a writer's medium. Most other social media cater more to visuals or quick soundbites, but blogging is about words.

August 29, 2015 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Deborah Hawkins said...

I've written a short story and a few poems "live" on my blog. I don't think I'd ever try a novel. lol

But I'm so glad someone else believes in slow blogging!

September 14, 2015 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger E. J. Godwin said...

Hardly any followers at first? Anne, I almost said "no way," then did a cyber-facepalm. Of course you had to start somewhere!

I'm beginning to think that my struggle to find something to blog about is actually a secret desire to hit a home run on the first at bat. It doesn't happen that way, of course. It takes experimentation, persistence, and especially patience -- just like writing does. At least I've got two out of three nailed down! :)

Anyway, great post, and thanks for the encouraging reminder.

September 14, 2015 at 11:53 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

E.J.--Oh yes. I had to bribe the members of my critique group into "following" me, or I wouldn't have had any followers at all. Nobody read it for the first six months.

A lot of us fight that feeling that if we don't hit a home run the first time (and every time) we've failed somehow. But it's a journey. You have to start somewhere and you have ups and downs. Lots of them. When you hit a big peak, you may think you're still on your way up, but what goes up must come down. :-) Patience and persistence are required, for sure.

September 14, 2015 at 12:02 PM  
Blogger E. J. Godwin said...

"When you hit a big peak, you may think you're still on your way up, but what goes up must come down."

Nailed it. I guess it's like investing in the stock market ... think long-term, and don't obsess over the ups and downs.

September 14, 2015 at 12:07 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Deborah--I think slow blogging is the key to keeping up a blog for the long term. Most bloggers burn out after three years, but that's because they try to blog too often. We have to think long-term. Slow and steady wins!

September 14, 2015 at 12:34 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

E. J. Exactly. Nobody should expect a smooth ride. It's a crazy business and it's in constant upheaval.

September 14, 2015 at 4:17 PM  
Blogger Icy Sedgwick said...

I wish I had found this post sooner! I'm genuinely on the verge of giving up. I have had two books out already, one a Western and one a horror/fantasy, while my next one is a horror Western. Thing is, all of my short stories that I have published are quite Gothic, and that's my academic interest too, so I was going to run posts to do with anything Gothic but I don't know who would read that. I sometimes blog about writing, or give my opinion on publishing, but the rest of the time I don't know what to blog about. Blogging experts tell me my blog needs a static focus, but I want to try and attract readers, not clients. So do I blog about horror and the Gothic in anticipation of my next book, and my short stories, or do I blog about the genres of the books I've already had published? There's just so much conflicting advice!

September 27, 2015 at 3:18 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Icy--You're right that a lot of the advice is conflicting. But if you ignore the advice from people who are talking to non-author bloggers, it's easier to choose who to listen to.

This is one type of author blog, but it's not the best kind for people who are primarily fiction writers. That's why I think the best thing for an author to do is be eclectic.

I think Alex J. Cavanaugh has a great author blog. He talks generally about his genre (scifi) and about writing in general, but he doesn't stick with one thing, which is why it's always fresh.

The best thing is to experiment and see what posts get the most interest--and are of most interest to YOU. You want it to reflect your passions. That can be Gothic literature--or anything else that's going to interest the kind of reader you want to attract. I would definitely look forward rather than backward. If you've got a Western Horror novel coming up, that gives you a wide range. (I'm hearing 'Ghostriders in the Sky' in my head..."

September 27, 2015 at 3:52 PM  

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