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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, October 4, 2015

How to Start a Blog in 20 Easy Steps: A Guide for New Author-Bloggers

by Anne R. Allen

This blog almost wasn't here today. On Tuesday, it disappeared. When I loaded the home page, I got a message saying "this page does not exist on this blog."

Panic attack time.

Luckily, my Google Plus friend SEO expert Johnny Base was able to help me get it back up and running and thwart whoever was trying to hack it. Thanks, Johnny!

But I had to go through some painful hours there wondering if I could survive without a blog.

I realize plenty of authors do. I spent a few minutes trying to tell myself, "well...it would give me more time to work on my books...."

But blogging can boost your career in so many ways, as I wrote in my September 13th post, "Does an Author Really Need a Blog?" This blog sure has helped mine.

Plus if you write non-narrative nonfiction like, ahem, How to be a Writer in the E-Age, a blog is pretty essential to your platform.

If  you haven't tried it yet, you'll find that creating a blog isn't as hard as you may think.

A lot of blogging advice is aimed at professional bloggers who are looking to make money from the blog itself. They want things slick, flashy, and monetized.

But that's probably not what you want as an author. You want a personal, inviting place where people can visit and get to know you—a home rather than a storefront.

I had to learn blogging by trial and error—lots of error. Tech people always assume everybody knows the basics, which is why the basics are the hardest part to figure out if you're brand new to all this.

Here's the stuff I wish somebody had told me when I was starting out...

20 Steps To Becoming a Blogger

1) Read Blogs

If you don't do it yet, spend a couple of weeks reading a bunch of writing and publishing blogs before you jump in and create your own. See what you like and don't like.

Blogs written by agents, authors and other industry professionals are great places to educate yourself. They're like a visit to a writers' conference available free any day of the week. And like writers' conferences, they're also good places to network with other writers at all stages of their careers—people who can help your own career in dozens of ways.

For suggestions of blogs to visit, see my post "What Should A Novelist Blog About?" I also highly recommend Molly Greene, Jami Gold and Janice Hardy's Fiction University. Their blogs are all full of great information that will be helpful to you whether you plan to self-publish or go the traditional route.

Also, many writer-bloggers have a "blogroll" in their sidebar with a list of other great writing blogs. Start clicking around. If you like what somebody says, click on their name in the comments and you'll probably get their profile and you can go visit their blog.

While you're reading, think of things you might like to say in your own blog. Start jotting down ideas for posts.

You'll want to have several pieces ready to go by the time you launch your own blog.

For non-bloggers who are getting blogposts in their email but may not know how to read an actual blog or see the comments, you can click through the email to the blog by clicking on the header (for our subscribers, it's the title in blue at the top of the email.) That will take you to this blog in its native habitat at blogspot.com.

The advantage of clicking through is that you can read the comments (just click on the word "comments" at the bottom of the post. It will usually say "28 Comments" or whatever the number is.)

For most of you reading right now, that may sound too beginnerish to mention, but we were all beginners once. I remember when I finally figured out how to comment on a blog. It felt like such a triumph. And I'd been reading them for at least six months. Online sites never come with a manual.

Blog comments have a wealth of information. Some of our commenters know much more than we do! And if you leave a comment yourself, that will help you raise your profile and increase name recognition.

2) Get a blogging ID

You may find it tough to comment on some blogs without the proper ID. Ruth and I have recently decided to allow "anonymous" commenting, so if you don't have an ID, you can comment here as "anonymous" and then sign your name at the bottom. But many bloggers don't allow anons because it involves weeding out a lot more spam.

There are a number of ways to get an ID.

  • Join Google+. It's an easy, no-strings social site where you can participate or not (just unclick "email me" functions if you want to keep participation to a minimum.) This gives you a "user ID" that allows you to comment on most blogs without jumping through all those hoops. Plus when you comment, your Google profile picture will come up and if people click on it, they will go to your Google profile. If that profile has links to your blog, website and books, you may have just made a sale or got a potential blog follower. If you have gmail, it's super easy to sign up, and it's not hard for anybody, even a cybermoron like me. In a guest post written for us by Johnny Base, there's a video showing you exactly how to sign up.
  • Get a Gravatar ID. Gravatar is a universally recognized image that follows you from site to site appearing beside your name when you do things like comment or post on a blog. Clicking on it will lead people to your Gravatar ID, where you can put links to your sites, just like on Google Plus. So when people read a comment, they can click on your image and find you on the Web. ( Although something seems to be weird there right now. When I click on "my profile" it closes the tab. Very mysterious. I assume they'll fix that.) 
  • You can also join Wordpress without having a Wordpress blog. You can sign up for a username only account. Unfortunately, Blogger, which is owned by Google, sometimes doesn't accept a Wordpress ID, so a Google ID is better for a Blogger blog. Tech companies always seem to be at war with each other and they don't seem to mind the collateral damage.

3) Comment and interact with other commenters on high profile blogs

You only have to say a few words of agreement (or disagreement, if phrased politely), or offer your own experience about the topic.

Commenting on high traffic blogs is the quickest way to get into search engines. Most of my early mentions on Google came from my comments on other people's blogs. 

A comment right here can put your name in front of 5,000 people in a week. It could take many months to reach that many people with a new blog.

Discussions on big blogs can also lead to discussions on your own. Find yourself making a long comment? That's a future blogpost. When you post the comment, you can invite people to discuss the topic further on your own blog. 

Support somebody's argument on a high-profile blog and you have a blogfriend. That's how I got my first followers.

4) Choose a blogging platform

The biggest free blogging platforms are WordPress, Tumblr, and Blogger. But there are lots of others to choose from, like SquareSpace, TypePad, LiveJournal, and Weebly. Medium is a newer site that comes highly recommended. WordPress is the most popular.

You can also have a blog on your personal website, or on a writer's forum like Goodreads or SheWrites, but these aren't as likely to be picked up by search engines, so if your goal is to be more visible, I suggest using a blogging platform that's not buried in another site.

I use Blogger (owned by Google, with an address that reads "blogspot.com") because it's the easiest to set up and use—and has templates that are easy to customize. But Blogger does have drawbacks. There's no tech support, so you have to go around to forums asking for help. And you don't have as many choices. 

And scary things can happen, like what happened to me this week. Johnny Base tells me when a blog gets to be the size of this one, with up to 100,000 hits a month, it's time to move to a paid web host site. So we'll be doing that in the next few months.

But Blogger has been working fine for us for five years and it works for most authors.

If you prefer to start with a free WordPress blog, you can get step by step instructions here from Jane Friedman. WordPress has the advantage of tech support, and a free blog can be easily converted to a self-hosted (paid) blog if you start getting a lot of traffic. A WordPress blog can also be more easily translated into an ebook.

4) Decide on a focus and tone for your blog. 

Blog gurus will tell you to address a niche, but that's not always the best way to start. I think the most important thing is to develop a strong personal voice and be flexible. And don't plan to blog about writing all the time. There are an awful lot of us out here doing just that and you want to provide something fresh.

For more on this check out my post, What Should An Author Blog About?

Beginning author-bloggers form a wonderful community. That community can help you in hundreds of ways, so don't worry too much about seeming like a "professional" blogger right away. Be real, flexible, open and friendly and you can ease into your niche later.

Remember the most successful blogs reveal the writer's personality and provide something useful at the same time. Even if you choose to be a niche blogger like me, keep flexible.

Don't focus on one book or lock yourself into one genre, especially if you're a newbie.

Zombies could invade the second draft of what started out as a cozy mystery. Or a Victorian romance could veer into steampunk. Romance writer Rosa Lee Hawkins might decide to become dark, gritty R. L. Hawk. She won't want to be stuck with that pink, lacy blog—or betray her romance-loving followers. You can always add stuff, but it's harder to take it away.

But note: if you make a big genre change, you can alter everything about a blog—header, name, template, tone—but still keep the original url (blog address.) I suggest you do that so you don't lose the search engine attention you've gained so far.

5) Think of a name and tagline. 

Don't get too creative here. Make sure you put your own name in the title. Your name is your brand. Yes, I know a lot of blogs have names like "Musing, Meandering and Muttering," but this self-defeating for an author.

Nothing is more annoying than reading a great blogpost and not being able to find out who wrote it. I'm amazed at how many writers are still doing this.

Here's the thing: anywhere you go online, you want to promote your brand, or you're wasting time (time you could be writing that masterpiece that's the reason for all this, remember?) It's OK to be unimaginative like me and call it YOUR NAME's blog—maybe reducing the ho-hum factor with something like "Susie Smith, Scrivener."

You're doing this to get your name out there, so for goodness sake, put your name on the blog.  

6). Choose a couple of photos to decorate the blog. 

Use a friendly, professional photo of yourself for your profile, and another for the header to set the tone. And of course post your book covers if you have them for sale.

Try to keep with the same color scheme and general feel when choosing photos.

And make sure they aren't copyrighted! Use your own or use free ones from places like WikiCommons, or you could be hit with a big bill from the copyright holder.

Do think about tone when you choose. If you write MG humor, you don't want your blog looking all dark and Goth, and cheery colors will give the wrong message for that serial killer thriller series. Romance sites don't have to be pink, but they should be warm, inviting and a little sexy or girly.

Also, aim to echo the tone and color of your other social media pages in order to establish a personal "brand" look.

7) Prepare a bio for your "About Me" page. 

This is the most important part of your blog. Again, I'm amazed at how many writers don't have one. It's why you're here, remember?

Make it intriguing and funny without giving TMI. You can add some more pics—maybe of your dog or your funky car. Keep family out unless it's a family or parenting blog. Pseudonyms for kids are a smart idea for protecting their privacy. You can learn more in my post on How to Write an Author Bio.

8) Go to a friend's blog. 

If they use Blogger or Wordpress, there will be a link at the top that says "create blog."

9) Click on "create blog." 

Follow directions in the window. They're easy. In Blogger anyway.

10) Choose a template. 

Don't mess with the design too much, except in terms of color—a busy blog isn't a place people want to linger. And don't add animation, really big files or anything that takes too long to load. Keep with your color scheme and tone.

11) Pick your "gadgets." 

There are lots. But again, keep it simple. I suggest just choosing the basics like "about me", "followers", "subscribe", "share" and "search this blog". "Share" is the thing so people can Tweet or FB or G+ your post. You want this to happen.

You can go back and add anything you want later. Later you'll want your archives and most popular posts. Just go to your "design" tab to find more.

Make sure you add links to your other social media accounts. It's easy if you just add a gadget that will make a link live that gives your Twitter handle (as we do) or says "Like me on Facebook." You can get a Facebook badge from FB, but mine disappeared some time ago. If you Tweet, you can Google "Twitter buttons" to get a cute one. Don't get the animated kind, though—they slow your load time. And be sure to put your actual Twitter handle on the blog somewhere so people who Tweet your posts can attribute them to you.

In a little while, you'll want to install the gadget that posts links to your most popular posts. That makes people want to move around the site and not leave after they've read one thing.

I don't recommend putting your stats on the front page: "42 hits" or whatever. It will only advertise that you're a newbie. Do keep track of your stats on your own dashboard, but remember it takes about a year to get blog traffic going. So don't get discouraged. Yes, you will have weeks when you have two hits. My blog had five hits in its entire first three months.

Checking stats privately is a good idea, so you can see where your traffic is coming from and what posts are popular. If you get a ton of hits from one address (and it's not spam) someone probably posted a link to your blog, so check it out and get a discussion going.

But don't obsess about your traffic. Establishing an audience takes time. Longer than you think. So relax and have fun.

12) Set up privacy settings. 

I suggest making no restrictions on comments on new posts. Don't make every comment wait for your approval before it goes live. You won't get a discussion going that way. Monitor your blog yourself instead. I've personally found that 99% of commenters are friendly. And the spambot will take care of a lot of the robo-spam.

I used to suggest turning off the CAPTCHA word verification thingy, but they've improved it so it's not such an infuriating puzzle, so I've put ours back on. Now there's just a box to check to "prove you're not a robot,"

But DO have every comment over a week old sent to you for approval. Old posts attract spam and trolls.

13) Sign up for email notification of new comments 

That way you can respond to them in a timely way. If commenters give an email address in their profile (always smart) you can respond to them via email, but I prefer to respond in the comment thread to stimulate discussion.

14) Upload those photos. 

But not too many. One per post is good.  Unless you're a photojournalist, you're trying to sell yourself as a writer, not a photographer (or a chooser of stock photos.) And NEVER use copyrighted photos. You may get a bill and it won't be cheap.

If you're more of a photographer than a writer, you'll probably prefer Tumblr, which is more about images than text.

And NO MUSIC. People read blogs at work. And on their phones. Even though you're sure everybody on the planet adores the classic oeuvre of the Archies, some of us don't. Trust me on this.

It's that easy. But don't forget to:

15) BOOKMARK your blog

Or you may never find it again.  Remember you can't find it with a Google search it until the search spiders have found it. I lost this blog for three months after I started it.

You'd be amazed how many people set up a blog only to have it disappear into cyberspace. If you've done that, it's worth it to go looking for them use the oldest one as the basis for your new blog: it will have some Google cred by now. Then delete the others. You don't want people who Google you to find a dead blog from 2007. They'll think you're deceased.

These days you ARE your Google search page. Don't run the risk of looking like a dead person.

16) Sign in.

When you go back to your blog, click "sign in" in the upper right hand corner. And then hit "design" or "new post" to get inside the blog. That's what they call the "back" of the blog where you do your actual work.

Why is the link  that opens the blog labeled "design"? I don't have a clue. That's the kind of thing that sends a non-techie into a panic, but must be obvious to most techies. It may be called something else in Wordpress. Maybe one of the commenters will let us know.

17) Keep to a schedule. 

Decide how often you want to blog—I suggest once a week to start—then do it. Preferably on the same day each week. Most blog gurus will tell you to blog more often, but this is a pretty highly rated blog and I have never blogged more than twice in one week.

I like to do what some people call "slow blogging". It's like the slow food movement. Quality over quantity.

Joining the Slow Blog movement is simple. Start a blog and announce you're planning to post on alternate Tuesdays, or every full moon, or whenever. Or if you already have a blog, next time you miss a few days, tell yourself you didn't FAIL to blog; you SUCCEEDED in joining the Slow Bloggers. All you have to do is skip those boring apologies, and you're in.

18) Write some blogposts.

As I said above, it's a good idea to write several pieces before you start the blog, so you have time to get into a rhythm and you don't fall into the trap of so many one-post would-be bloggers who have those deceased blogs floating around in cyberspace.

If you have four or five posts lined up, you'll give yourself a running start.

I personally write in Word, save it in my documents, and then copy and paste into Blogger.This is because the auto-save is slower than Word's. I learned that the hard way.

But if you compose in Word and paste into Blogger, turn off the "smart quotes" (the curly ones) in Word. It's not that a post won't go live with smart quotes, but they seem to interfere with the rss feed, so your followers won't be able to read the blog in their feed. I'm too much of a cyberemoron to tell you why, but for some reason the rss elves prefer stupid quotes.   

So how do you write for a blog?
  • A post should be from 500-2000 words presented in short, punchy paragraphs. (If you post more often, you can make the posts shorter.)
  • Bulleting, numbering and bolding are your friends. Make a point and present it in a way that's easy to grasp.
  • Use subheaders! That means going up to the toolbar and choosing a format from the drop down menu. In Blogger, you can choose "Normal", "Header" "Subheader", or "Minor Header." Formatting is important because search engine spiders notice properly formatted subheaders and get your post into Google faster.
  • Make sure you link to your sources. And choose good anchor text for those hyperlinks. Don't just say "for more information click here." Say "you can find more information in the article How to choose Anchor Text" and highlight the whole title. (Those aren't actually live links) That's so the search engine spiders will find you. They are looking for live links that tell the search engine something. "Here" doesn't say much. 
  • Don't navel-gaze. Offer information and interesting observations. Direct your focus outward, not inward. (And don't expect to get as much traffic for fiction and poetry. People are usually looking for nonfiction and information in blogs.)
  • Don't feel you have to say everything in one post. If you have more to say than fits in one post—great! You have material for next time.
  • Keep to one topic per post, because that stimulates conversation more effectively. If you have dozens of short things to say—Tweet them.
  • Ask a question of your readers at the end. It makes people feel involved and stimulates discussion.

19) Go tell those blogfriends you've made that you've got a blog. 

Hopefully, a few will follow. Don't despair if you don't get a lot of followers right away. I had maybe ten for my first six months—consisting of my critique group and my mom.

Twitter is one of the best places to promote your blogposts, so if you're not on Twitter, consider joining. Then RT other posts on the same subject you're blogging about. That way you'll get a core of Twitter followers who will want to read your posts.

Facebook is also a great place to promote your blog. If you sign up for Networked blogs, they will post a link to your FB page automatically (as long as you use stupid quotes: their elves don't like smart quotes either.) Google Plus will post a Blogger blog automatically if you link it to your Google Plus account. (But don't link your comments to Google Plus. Then only Google Plus members can comment.)

Any social medium is good for blog promotion. We get a lot of hits from Pinterest, and we're not even on it. We're grateful to followers who post links for us. Thanks!

20) Congratulations. You are now a blogger.

Really. It's that easy.

What about you, scriveners? Do any of you regular bloggers have suggestions for newbies? Newbies, do you have any questions? If you're a blogger, what do you find the hardest part of blogging? The easiest?


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Open call for the Independent Women Anthology: short stories (flash fiction included), poetry, essays, artwork, or any other woman and/or feminist-centered creative work. 10,000 word max. All genres but explicit erotica. $100 per short story, $50 for flash, poetry, and photography/artwork. All profits will be donated to the Pixel Project Charity to end Violence Against Women. Deadline January 31, 2016 with a goal of publication on International Women's Day, March 8, 2016.

TETHERED BY LETTERS' FALL 2015 LITERARY CONTEST ENTRY FEES: $15 Short Story; $7 Flash Fiction/$15 three Flash Fictions; $7 poem /$15 for three poems. Currently accepting submissions for the short story contest (1,000 to 7,500 words, open genre), flash fiction contest (55, 250, or 500 words), and poetry contest (maximum of three pages per poem). All winners will be published in F(r)iction. All finalists will receive free professional edits on their submission and be considered for later publication. The prizes are $500 (USD) for the short story winner, $150 (USD) for the flash fiction winner, and $150 (USD) for the poetry winner. Multiple entries accepted. International submissions welcome. Deadline December 1.

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

Writers' Village International Short Fiction Award winter 2015. Cash prizes totaling $3200.Ten further Highly Commended entrants will have their stories acknowledged at the site and gain a free entry in the next round. Entry fee $24 INCLUDES A PROFESSIONAL CRITIQUE. Any genre of prose fiction may be submitted up to 3000 words, except plays and poetry. Entries are welcomed worldwide. Multiple entries are permitted. Deadline: November 30th.

The IWSG Short Story Anthology Contest 2015.  NO FEE! The top ten stories will be published in an anthology. (Authors will receive royalties on sales.) Eligibility: Any member of the Insecure Writer's Support Group is encouraged to enter – blogging or Facebook member (no fee to join the IWSG). The story must be previously unpublished. Entry is free. Word count: 5000-6000. Theme: Alternate History/Parallel Universe. Deadline: November 1st

$20 ENTRY FEE. 7000 word limit.
The winning story will receive $2,000 and publication on the site. Second and third place stories will receive $200 and $100, publication, and all story winners will receive a critique. Fifteen finalists will be recognized online and have their stories read by the VanderMeers. Deadline October 31.

RROFIHE TROPHY NO-FEE SHORT STORY CONTEST NO ENTRY FEE. For an unpublished short story. Minimum word count 3,500; maximum to 5,000 words. Winner receives $500, trophy, announcement and publication on anderbo.comDeadline October 15.

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Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Excellent tips! New bloggers do need to realize they must socialize with other bloggers. Otherwise, they are just talking to themselves.

October 4, 2015 at 10:12 AM  
OpenID Digital Dame said...

This is one of the few writing blogs I visit anymore. I would be very sorry if it disappeared!

October 4, 2015 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

Great blogging tips. I'd add that though timing probably isn't everything, it's significant. Collecting an audience is tougher the more content is available. I think that finding an audience is more challenging as time moves on and the digital ether has more and more to offer. So those of you thinking of starting a blog sometime, follow Anne's advice and get on it as soon as possible.

October 4, 2015 at 10:21 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alex--You're right. The socializing part is SOOOO important. Blogging is part of social media and social media is, um, social. I see some bloggers who are basically sitting in their basements waving a sign nobody on earth can see.

October 4, 2015 at 10:38 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Digital--Thanks. We're so grateful for your loyalty! It was kind of terrifying to see it gone. We're going to take some steps to make sure it doesn't happen again. Unfortunately, when you get noticed by readers, you also get noticed by bad guys.

October 4, 2015 at 10:40 AM  
Anonymous Barry Knister said...

Anne--more excellent advice, thank you. I've had several blogs. My current one is part of my author website. It has its own address, but I've never "broken the code" of how to attract readers, so I stopped writing posts.
Good advice or no, the detail in your post that sticks most firmly is this: "Luckily my Google Plus friend SEO expert Johnny Base was able to help me...." That's crucial, IMO. Without such friends to help with technical guidance, the Internet road is rough indeed.

October 4, 2015 at 10:41 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

CS--Great tip! Thanks. Yes, there are more blogs getting started all the time, so the sooner the better!

October 4, 2015 at 10:41 AM  
Blogger Linda Maye Adams said...

You'll cut spam by setting up your posts to close to comments after a certain period of time. I'd have posts from six months ago drawing spam, and I cut way, way down on the spam by doing that. I think the spammers assumed those aren't be monitored--in some cases, that's true, as I've found on other blogs.

If you need places for prompts, Word Press offers a Daily Post: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/

October 4, 2015 at 10:49 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Barry--It is so frustrating to be writing for nobody--or what seems like nobody. My first year was like that. I didn't get an audience until I scored some guest spots on some bigger blogs.

As far as tech help, I have had to hire people at times. I couldn't figure out how to do MailChimp without help, so I did have to pay somebody there. And if Johnny hadn't jumped in when I was kvetching about my lost blog on FB, I would have phoned my tech guy. That can run into bux. But mostly I've been able to figure this stuff out on my own, which is pretty amazing since tech mostly terrifies me. But I'm always willing to help people with what I have figured out.

That's another part of the "social" aspect of social media. I wouldn't have got help from Johnny if I hadn't visited his blog and got to know him on Google Plus.

October 4, 2015 at 10:55 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Anne—Pay attention, people! Think of this as the Blogging Bible because Anne's the Blogging Goddess. She knows whereof she speaks!

October 4, 2015 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Oooops. Forgot!

October 4, 2015 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Linda--Thanks for the tip and the link. Actually, we still get relevant comments on our older posts, so right now it's worth it to leave them open. By moderating all comments on posts over a week old, I catch 99% of spam. I just have to delete it from my email inbox. Not a huge job.

October 4, 2015 at 11:22 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ruth "Blogging Bible". I like that. :-) Thanks!!

October 4, 2015 at 11:23 AM  
Blogger Melodie Campbell said...

Once again, will be pointing my Crafting a Novel students to this post! Anne and Ruth, when I was a hospital director, my boss made up fun business cards for me with the title "Goddess of Public Relations". I'm thinking...might be a good thing for your conference appearances, Anne? "Goddess of Writing Blogs"? grin

October 4, 2015 at 12:09 PM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

I think you pretty much covered it. However, after 8 1/2 years, the hardest part besides writing the post (which is difficult) is coming up with a post title that has some connection to what your post is about. My post titles 99% of the time have a major disconnect with the content, and I'm fine with that.

If you have Blogger issues and if the forums aren't helping (even though Blogger is one of the few things that Google pays attention to besides Chrome), I would suggest to any blogger, new or old, to check out Chuck Crolls's blog called The Real Blogger Status. Super informative and and from the way its written, it sounds like Chuck works for Blogger, or at the very least is a great techie guy.

Father Nature's Corner

October 4, 2015 at 12:16 PM  
Blogger Sugarbeat said...

Hi Anne, Thanks again for a valuable post. One point I'd like to add to it is for people to realize that as a writer, often their skills run in a different direction than a technical one. There is no shame in hiring some help. Not only is the cost declarable on your income tax, but spending a bit of money will free up time to write. What's more important, beating your head against a wall trying to solve a technical issue or writing your next book?

October 4, 2015 at 12:22 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Melodie--Thanks for sharing this with your students! Maybe I should order some of those business cards!

October 4, 2015 at 12:23 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

G. B. Post titles are the #1 hardest thing, aren't they? I may have to write a whole post on that. They also have to be hooky and make good tweets.

Thanks for the tip about Chuck Crolls' blog! I'll check him out!

October 4, 2015 at 12:38 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sugarbeat--It's true that hiring tech help takes the pressure off. But the financial expense keeps a lot of people from trying blogging. Using a Blogger blog is easy enough for anybody (even me!) and mostly you don't need to hire anybody to take care of it.

This allows you to experiment and find out if you enjoy blogging before you invest a bunch of money in it. But if money isn't an issue, hiring tech help is great!

October 4, 2015 at 12:42 PM  
Blogger Jan M. Leotti said...

Great post, Anne. The thing I struggled with most in the beginning was a focus for my blog. Since I read your book, How to be a Writer in the E-age, I worry less about that. I write about writing, paranormal subjects, and generally stuff that interests me. Today's blog will be about hot chocolate, since I just bought a new book on how to make gourmet hot chocolate, one of my favorite subjects. I attribute this feeling of freedom directly to your advice! :)

October 4, 2015 at 12:48 PM  
Blogger Tam Francis said...

Great advice, Anne. I've shared with my writer's group. I hope they pay attention. A few of them have blogs, but are NOT doing half of what you suggest!

Also, I might add to your advice, to sign up for GOOGLE ALERTS for specific words. For example if you write alien sci/fi, or about quilting, or feature a Scottish terrier in your writing, you might use that as a google alert word. I write about WWII, jitterbug, vintage fashion. It helps me find other blogs or articles to comment on!

I also leaned to use EXTERNAL and INTERNAL LINKS to help search engines find you. I try to add a least one and not just to Amazon. I'm sure as you write you will find subjects that you can lead a person to for more info. For example. I wrote a music and dance blog about Ireland and linked to the town's site and another tourist page.

Make sure you click (open in a new tab), that they don't lose your blog.

Internal links are links to other blog posts you've written. Keeping them on your site give more time for your advertising (when you have a book to sell), to work!

Hope you agree, Anne :)

~ Tam Francis ~

October 4, 2015 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger Rosalind Minett said...

Hi again, Anne. So many advice posts are skimpy and samey. Yours is to the point and quite comprehensive, so will be much appreciated by many bloggers. This is why I regard you as a superblogger, as you know.

October 4, 2015 at 1:35 PM  
Blogger Tam Francis said...

I would agree with Anne. I have folks who comments months after an active blog post, but the post is new and relevant to them. I use Akismet span filter and it works wonderful, plus the first time anyone posts, I have to approve it. After that they can post away. So far so good!

October 4, 2015 at 1:35 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jan--I'm so glad to hear our book gave you that sense of freedom! That's why I suggest starting with a free blog, too. You can do whatever you want and you haven't invested a huge amount of money in it. Blogging should be fun and free-wheeling. I'll have to check out your hot chocolate blogpost. Sounds really good on our first chilly fall day!

October 4, 2015 at 1:37 PM  
Blogger Tam Francis said...

If I understand it write words in your title should appear in your blog post for SEO points (I don't think points is the right word, but it ups your presence in search engines. On my blog I can pick key words. I always make sure the key word is in the title!

October 4, 2015 at 1:39 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tam--Thanks for the share. This is a post for beginning bloggers, but I will have more for more advanced bloggers, talking more about links and SEO.

I am the queen of internal links! I always have at least one link to other posts on this blog and in this one I have three. Once you've got a blog started, you'll want to link often to your archives as well as linking to your blog friends and your news sources.

I haven't thought of getting Google Alerts on specific subjects, but maybe that's because my interests are so varied. I'd have my inbox fill up with thousands of alerts a day. But yes, for people promoting or researching a niche topic, Google Alerts are great.

They're also great for finding out if somebody has recommended your blog or your book. I do have alerts on my name and this blog.

October 4, 2015 at 1:45 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Rosalind--Superblogger! Love it! I do hope this will help some newbies brave the blogosphere and start their own blogs!

October 4, 2015 at 2:02 PM  
Blogger Jan M. Leotti said...

Anne, I made the second recipe in the book to start, very simple, and it was delicious! If you are a chocoholic like me, you'll love it. :)

October 4, 2015 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tam--I still get comments on posts from 2010. And one of my posts from 2011 has 125K hits and counting, so it works for me. The spam blocker on Blogger works pretty well. Only a few get through, and then I have to delete them myself. No big. No more than one or two a month make it onto the blog and then I have to delete from behind the scenes.

I'm not sure Akismet works on Blogger. But it's good to know it works well.

October 4, 2015 at 2:33 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tam--Yes! It's all about keywords. We have to think about keywords in our book titles, too.

October 4, 2015 at 2:34 PM  
Blogger Sugarbeat said...

Hi Anne,
Just to add a bit of information about tech help. Many people feel that technical help is hugely expensive, but it doesn't have to be. There are beginner and advanced courses available on Udemy.com from very well qualified instructors. The prices will vary, but Udemy frequently offers sales and courses can be as low as $10.00 . Once you pay for a course, you can go back repeatedly to view the helpful videos contained in the course. An excellent investment in one's career!

October 4, 2015 at 2:37 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sugarbeat--Great tips! Video courses would be especially useful for people who are visually oriented and need to see a picture, rather than a list of instructions like this. I've heard good things about Udemy courses. Thanks!

The point I want to make with this post is that blogging is amazingly easy, even for the tech-challenged. If I can do it, they can! We still need help when dealing with hackers, but the basics are pretty intuitive.

October 4, 2015 at 2:44 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Anne, this is a sensational post and full of info. Love the step by step outline you've provided. I write short articles from time to time on Medium and love reading the top stories daily. Most are well written and fun to read. Never thought of using Medium as a blog but you certainly could. Hmm. As you know, I use Goodreads and blog there only once in a while. So far, I've had some success with it, but I think the idea of using Medium is something I might try out in the future. A lot of folks really love that site and I'm one of them. :)

October 4, 2015 at 3:20 PM  
Blogger Wm. L. Hahn said...

Fabulous, Anne! Lets toss out #20, with 19 points you'd think I'd disagree with three or five. Nope, it all seems just right to me. Of course there are two or so I haven't yet done! So that's my to-do list for October.

October 4, 2015 at 3:42 PM  
Blogger Natalie Aguirre said...

All this is such great advice. I wish I had a post like this before I started blogging.

October 4, 2015 at 3:44 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Paul--Thanks much for the recommendation for Medium! I found it while researching this piece and it looks very good.

I think you'd do really well to start blogging there. You can link it to Goodreads, so your Goodreads followers will see your blog as usual, but it will also be on Medium's platform, reaching a much larger audience.

A lot of people are turned off by Goodreads because of their bully problem, so I think you'd reach a whole lot more people. And you'd be so cutting edge....:-)

October 4, 2015 at 3:45 PM  
Blogger Melanie Ormand said...

In this era, is blogging still viable if you're writing your first novel? Isn't writing the novel the primary pursuit?

October 4, 2015 at 3:45 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Will--Oh, you can never toss out #20. That's the celebration part. We all need to pat ourselves on the back once we've made a big step. :-)

Best of luck on your October plans. It's amazing how much I've promised myself I'll accomplish this month. If I get half of it done, I'll be lucky.

October 4, 2015 at 3:49 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Natalie--I do too! Thanks a bunch. Do spread the word. If we can keep a few newbies from some grief we'll have done our job.

October 4, 2015 at 3:50 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Melanie--The primary writing project has to come first. I discussed this in my September 13th post "Does an Author Really Need a Blog?" The link is in the introduction to this post. Click on "September 13th" Maybe I should change that to the title of the post, and follow my own rules :-)

October 4, 2015 at 3:55 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Melanie--I just changed the anchor text for the link to read "Does an Author Really Need a Blog?" It's in paragraph 6 of the intro.

October 4, 2015 at 4:00 PM  
Blogger Florence Cronin said...

Anne, how I love your posts on "how-to" blog or social network. The best advice out there. I hope your readers listen and try it. Me? Well I love what I do ... modest though it is, I love the whole process. I think this blog can show anyone how wonderful the results are when they work. Keep inspiring us :)

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

Florence--Thanks! You have a great blog and a great blogging voice. People should check it out. I just checked and you don't have the link on your Google plus page. When people click on your name, they only get as far as Google Plus, but not to your blog. So put it in there under "websites I contribute to" or whatever it says. I always love your eclectic posts!

October 4, 2015 at 5:03 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Here's a link to Florence's blog. It's a great example of a fun writer's blog with a great voice: https://ramblingsfromtheleft.wordpress.com/

October 4, 2015 at 5:05 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Anne--Thanks for posting. Florence's blog is great!

October 4, 2015 at 5:27 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ruth--Isn't it fun? Florence is a transplanted Brooklynite who still has Brooklyn cool running through her veins..

October 4, 2015 at 8:01 PM  
Blogger Southpaw HR Sinclair said...

Yikes, scary morning! But there is another tip and something we should all do right now--back up our blogs! :) I'm headed off to do that really quick.

October 5, 2015 at 5:18 AM  
Blogger Julie Valerie said...

Fabulous blog post, Anne. I've already shared the link with a few of my writer friends who are about to take the plunge into blogging.

I'd warn all writers to be careful that the blogging doesn't take away from writing time. While I am so, so, so appreciative of my blog's readership, and so happy for what it's become, I often struggle to find writing time for myself and my own projects. I'll be striking a better balance moving forward. :)

October 5, 2015 at 9:10 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Southpaw--Yes! Backing up your blog is essential. I should probably devote another post to talking about that. Thanks for the reminder!

October 5, 2015 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Julie--Thanks for the shares! And yes, in my other posts on blogging I have emphasized this more, but this is why I'm such a big fan of SLOW BLOGGING. If you only post four times a month or less, you're much less likely to neglect your WIP. I know you blog much more often than that and your blog is great, but I'll bet you could pull back a bit and not lose your audience.

October 5, 2015 at 10:18 AM  
Blogger Megan Morgan said...

As a burgeoning blogger, this is some very helpful advice. Thank you!

October 5, 2015 at 12:18 PM  
Blogger Johnny Base said...

Thanks for the shout out! Very glad we turned things around that day. I'm always happy to help Anne

October 5, 2015 at 3:32 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Megan--So glad to be of help!

October 5, 2015 at 4:17 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Johnny--Thanks a million. I sure was terrified. Losing 5 years of work would not have been a nice thing.

October 5, 2015 at 4:18 PM  
Anonymous Steph Penny said...

Thank you so much Anne for the valuable info presented in this blog. As a writer and musician, my tech knowledge is close to zero, so I appreciate all the help I can get! On your advice I've now signed up for Google+, started a Facebook page and am on my way to setting up my own blogging site. As I am planning to publish both a book and a music EP next year, I figure now is a good time to get started on my online presence (hey, better late than never!) and I am grateful to have some guidelines for the process. My thanks once again.

October 5, 2015 at 5:39 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Steph--Congrats on taking the tech plunge! It can feel very scary. I know because I'm scared myself half the time. But mostly it's easy if you know the basic stuff nobody tells you because it's "so obvious". (But not to us. :-) ) Best of luck with your book and your music!

October 5, 2015 at 9:52 PM  
Blogger Florence Cronin said...

You are both too kind. Anne, I will certainly check that out. My mind has not yet learned to work around "marketing." but it might be time :)

October 6, 2015 at 6:57 AM  
OpenID thomaskleaton said...

Anne, all I have to say is your article should be the beginning blogger's handbook. It is that concise and informative.

October 6, 2015 at 2:19 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Thomas--Ha! Funny you should say that. I'm planning a blogging handbook for authors for early in 2016. Thanks!

October 6, 2015 at 2:56 PM  
Blogger Jesse Magnan said...

Love posts like this! So much is geared to those who want use blogging as their career, it is nice to see something that is geared to other writers.

October 6, 2015 at 4:29 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jesse--Thanks! I wish I'd had some authorly advice when I started out. It was all geared toward monetized blogs. But author-blogs are a different animal.

October 6, 2015 at 5:03 PM  
Blogger Merryn Allingham said...

Overwhelmed by the advice here - it's so clear and practical. I've saved the post so that I can go through it line by line before I dip my toes!

October 7, 2015 at 6:38 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Merryn--Thanks! And I'll be collecting all my blogging advice in one handy ebook, which will be available in 2016.

October 7, 2015 at 9:44 AM  
Anonymous John Yeoman said...

Ay, Anne, there's a Latin term for 'the fear of being without a computer'. (Cicero knew it well.) My computer needs fixing but I daren't trust it to a repair shop. I need it! Back to the post...

Rule #1 when you start a blog is to choose the right hosting platform. Five years ago I went with Yola because it was free for the first five sites and seemed easy to learn but I've regretted it ever since. Not that Yola isn't friendly. Its techies just keep changing the rules. Since 2012, it has stopped providing an option for blog pages. Can you believe that? My blog - essential to my site - only works because I joined Yola before 2012. Madness.

Yes, I could still port my site across to Wordpress but techies have quoted me $4000 to do that. I'm now stuck with Yola.

Get your platform right before you do anything else! Wordpress is probably the best, despite its fierce learning curve. It's free and well supported and unlikely to go down - the nightmare of every blogger.

October 8, 2015 at 3:31 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

John--"Sine Computandum Timoris" perhaps? Ha! My Latin is so rusty it's corroded. I know the fear well. I have panic attacks whenever something goes wrong with this thing. I hope your computer gets its needed repairs.

I think Blogger is pretty safe for most beginning bloggers because it is owned by Google, who aren't likely to go out of business.

But Wordpress is certainly the preferred platform. I am going to have to make the move from Blogger to Wordpress in order to grow this blog (and keep it safe. It needs to be on a self-hosted site at this point.) And it won't be easy.

Meanwhile, I've just discovered that somebody has hijacked all the content of this blog and put it up on some hideous ugly site somewhere in Eastern Europe. Very upsetting. I don't know if I can get them to take it down or not. Grrrr.

October 8, 2015 at 10:38 AM  
Anonymous John Yeoman said...

Hijacking - or apparent hijacking - goes with the territory, Anne. Google Alerts recently told me that one of my Amazon novels was available at some dubious site free as a pdf. Free? Odd, I thought. I'd never put it on-line as a pdf. I went there and lo! There it was. Or was it? I input a spurious title 'Moebius Dick' (a novel I've aways wanted to write, but prudence forbad it) and lo! There it was. The penny dropped (as we say in England). That scam site had no content whatsoever. It was just phishing for our credit card numbers to 'verify our account'. Had we input them, we'd have seen our account compromised and received a Trojan Horse virus. I've since learned these sites are taken down every few days but pop up again. Don't worry about them.

October 8, 2015 at 2:04 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

John--"Moebius Dick" is hilarious! Normally I don't worry about pirated books. As Neil Young said a few years ago "piracy is how new stuff gets around these days."

And as you say, most of those "free book" torrent sites are just phishing scams.

But this is my whole blog--five years worth of posts. And they've hijacked my links and are driving traffic from Google searches to their site instead of this one. My stats are way down. So this time it's serious. Luckily I have a tech guy working on it. If he can't get the site taken down, maybe he can get my Google traffic back.

October 8, 2015 at 2:12 PM  
Blogger Amy Willoughby Burle said...

No joke, I went through your steps and made some changes to my website and the way I was engaging--not not--with the world at large and two things happened that were pretty awesome--i saw more traffic on my site and other social pages right away AND better even, I found some new writing communities and finally visited some others that I'd heard of but not been to and am loving the connection to other writers! Thanks!

October 9, 2015 at 12:20 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Amy--That is so awesome! Can I quote you? What a great thing to see my advice working that fast!!

October 9, 2015 at 1:58 PM  
Blogger Geoff S said...

Thanks Anne - this was a great article. I'm not sure if I'll go ahead and take the plunge but this gave me plenty to think about.

October 11, 2015 at 11:02 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Geoff--It does take commitment. That's the hardest part of blogging. But if you only plan to "slow blog" it's a lot less scary.

October 11, 2015 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger Misti Barnes said...

Hi Anne,

What a great post. I'm taking notes and applying them to my word press site. I must say, though, that I find word press to be un-intuitive and not very user friendly. I still need a lot of help...

October 12, 2015 at 11:46 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Misti--That's why I tell people starting out to just use Blogger. It's true that moving from Blogger to WordPress is a pain, but most authors will never have to. Now that we're getting 100K hits a month, we're too big for Blogger and will have to move soon because it's too easy to hack the site, but that's a "first world problem" so I'm not complaining. But I couldn't do it without serious tech help.

October 13, 2015 at 10:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anne, I found this post (and therefore, your site) via a link at one of John Yeoman's sites. I love your 20 steps, and the fact that you really do make setting up and running a blog seem doable. This post gives a wealth of information and encouragement! Thank you.


November 9, 2015 at 2:28 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Bea--Thank John for me! He'll be one of our guest bloggers next year. Best of luck if you decide to start a blog!

November 9, 2015 at 4:49 PM  
Anonymous Louise Prinjha said...

I wish I had read this before setting up my own website www.finfifty.com to blog on.
I would have chosen a blogging platform like you suggest as I have learnt the hard way that they are easier to find and follow.
Oh well you live and learn and when I finish my countdown to 50 in Friday F words I think I will switch over.

November 23, 2015 at 10:22 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Louise--If you haven't got a big following yet, it won't be that hard to make the switch. Just leave a message at the old blog to tell people where you are. I'm learning to use WordPress right now, but I still think Blogger is best for most authors. It's easy, intuitive, and it belongs to Google so it gets right into the searches. WordPress is better for tech-savvy folks, but Blogger is fine unless you start getting a huge amount of traffic. Most author blogs don't get (or need) that kind of traffic.

November 23, 2015 at 10:31 AM  

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