How to Blog Part V: 12 Dos and Don’ts for Author-Bloggers

This is the 200th post on this blog. Since I started it on Friday the 13th  in March of 2009, I’ve learned an awful lot. (The first thing I learned was that you have to actually post stuff. My second post wasn’t until late June.)

Another thing I’ve learned is there’s no wrong way to blog—BUT if you’re an author who wants to get published, you need to be professional about it. If you want to be taken seriously in the industry—and we have to remember it is an industry—you need to create a helpful, reader-friendly place that’s an easy-to-navigate hub for your online presence as a writer.

For the other parts of this series, check Part I: How to Blog, Part II: How not to Blog, Part III: What to Blog About, Part IV, Difficult Blog Visitors

Here are some more dos and don’ts I’ve learned along the way that might make your job easier:

1) DO post your Twitter handle somewhere prominent on your home page if you tweet. Don’t just use one of those birdy icons. Make sure you put your whole @twittername up there. I spend way too much time using Twitter’s iffy search engine (why is it so useless?) trying to find the handle for somebody I’m quoting or want to reach. If it’s right up there on your blog home page, people are much more likely to be able to tweet you or follow.

2) DO post a Facebook link, (or “badge,” or “Like” button) so people can join you on Facebook. (Unless you’ve managed to resist the pressure to venture into Zuckerland. For which I applaud all three of you.)

3) DO provide an email address. I don’t know how many blogs I visit and find no contact information. The place most people will look is on your “about me” page. So that’s a good place to put it. If you’re afraid of spambots picking it up, write it this way : “myname (at) gmail (dot) com” –but do it! Imagine an agent or editor reads that short story that won the online contest and loves it. She wants to find out if you’ve got any full length fiction (yes, this does happen) so she Googles you, finds your blog, and…no contact information. Opportunity is knocking and nobody’s home.  

4) DO post your blog schedule. Here we say “This blog is updated Sundays, usually”—six simple words that keep us disciplined and keep readers coming back. We’ve never missed a post, but if we do, that “usually” covers our derrieres—we’re not running a boot camp here. On the other hand, it’s very important to remember it’s your professional profile. When you’re trying to get published, you’re basically applying for a job. You don’t want a sloppy blog any more than you  want to show up late for an interview, wearing stained sweats and smelling like last night’s party.  

5) DO learn to write 21st century prose. Writing for the Interwebz is very, very different from what you learned in school. It’s light, punchy, and easy to skim. The vast majority of online readers are skimmers. They want:
See where your eye went? There are a couple of important publishing industry blogs I hardly ever read because they’re written in the dense, repetitive prose of the old paid-by-the-word, pre-electronic era. I wait for somebody else to post excerpts or summarize those posts, because sweetie, I have things to do….

6) DON’T let yourself get pressured into too many blogfests and bloghops and blog awards and other blogmania. Just because somebody gives you an award doesn’t mean you have to drop your WIP and spend a day visiting 80 blogs to tell them all the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done with a book or whatever today’s game is. Thank them politely, tell them you’re honored and do as much as you have time for. Same with invitations to blogfests. No matter how much fun it sounds, just gathering a lot of blog followers isn’t as important as getting that novel written!

7) DON’T die intestate. No matter how young and healthy and immortal you feel, appoint a blog executor. Make sure somebody besides you has the passwords to your blog so if anything dire should happen, they can attend to it and/or take it down. Yes, it’s kind of icky to think of, but stuff happens. Not just kicking the bucket. You could get in a parasailing accident while you’re on that vacation in Mazatlan. Or get stuck without power for 2 weeks in darkest Connecticut. Be attacked by angry bees. You don’t want your blog hanging unattended in cyberspace as it collects Ukranian porn and fake Viagra ads.

8) DON’T neglect your “About Me” page. Keep it updated (speaking to myself here. I’d let mine get sloppy.) Make sure it’s friendly but professional. You don’t want a resume/curriculum vitae snoozefest. But you also don’t want to use it to post pix of yourself after your tenth margarita at Señor Frog’s or photos of your puppy learning to go potty outdoors. This is about you, the author. Even if you aren’t published, you want this to be about your writer-self. Give a short bio, a list of what writing organizations you belong to, your genre if you’ve settled on one, plus links to any short pieces you’ve published, or contests you’ve won—and anything else that relates to you as a writer. Make sure you include links to all your social media pages, especially book-related ones like Goodreads, AuthorsDen or RedRoom. You can talk about your favorite books, your philosophy, or your life goals as long as it’s short and not preachy. You can mention your family, but even if you’re a devoted stay-at-home parent, don’t make this all about the kids. This is for you.

9) DON’T try to maintain too many blogs. OK, I’m kind of hammering people about this, but I see a lot of misinformation about this circulating. To me, two is too many. If you don’t have a day job, and you aren’t in a hurry to finish that WIP, maybe you can handle two—especially if the second is a group blog. Or if one is the blog for your XXX-rated erotica and the other is for your sweet Christian romances. But please, don’t try to do any more. Multiple blogs don’t only take too much of your time—they also fracture your follower count and really annoy people trying to reach you.

Do you think it’s more impressive to an editor that you have 60 followers on your Sweetie Snookums, Vampire Slayer blog, 90 on Susie’s Scribblings, 43 on Sassy Susitude and 50 on Storytime Snippets—or 243 people reading Susie Smith, Scrivener? Do you think followers want to hop around to all those blogs?? Do you think we’re going to keep searching your blogs after we’ve landed on the one that hasn’t been updated since you posted that rant about Fox canceling Firefly in 2003???

Sorry. Got carried away. As I have said many times before, a Blogger blog has 20 pages. Count them: twenty. You can have one for your vampire stories, one for your musings and scribblings, one for giving yourself pep talks, and one for writing about being a storyteller—and still have 16 to go. So don’t start another blog until you’ve filled them all, OK?

10) DON’T make commenting difficult. This is another thing I’ve been hammering on about but it’s important. I just read a new study of customer habits and discovered the #1 motivation for the contemporary customer is ease of use. They’re not so worried about fancy or special. They want things to be easy. That’s why Amazon is so successful. First they invented a way to buy books with a couple of clicks and then they offered us a way to publish them with a few more. “Quick and Easy” wins the day, hands down.

So remember those CAPTCHA word verification things do NOT make it easy to comment. You can remove robo-spam yourself if it gets through the spam filter, which is a little harder for you and a lot easier for your potential customers. And as for insisting on moderating all new comments—especially if you don’t get around to them for days—that’s pretty much saying, “I don’t need no stinking comments/customers.” Try being open to comments on new posts for a while. If you get a troll attack, by all means go back to moderating, but with a small blog following, it’s very unlikely you’ll get a troll unless you blog about politics or religion. If you moderate (I moderate older comments myself, because that’s where the spam shows up) DO check many times during the day so you don’t send people away mad. These are your potential customers. Saying "just sit there until I have time to decide if you're special enough to buy my books," isn’t going to make the sale.

Note: Blogger loves to play Big Brother. It often turns your CAPTCHA back on after you’ve turned it off. It’s happened to me. So ask a good friend to let you know if it’s on.

11) Don’t delete a blog you’ve neglected. Bring it back to life by giving it your own name (you can’t change the url, but you can change the header very easily) and post a blog schedule and keep to it.

Yes: this is a total reversal on what I used to say, but I was educated by a savvy reader,Camille LeGuire, the Daring Novelist  who left a comment letting me know the older a blog is, the higher its rating with search engines. So remember that nine-year old Firefly blog? You can delete content and change the title, but keep the url and you’ll have much better SEO.

But: if you have 42 blogs, delete all but one or two of the oldest. Seriously. Did I mention people find multiple blogs annoying?

12) Don’t let yourself be pressured into letting somebody guest blog just because they asked. Good guest posts are informative and target your audience. Somebody with a book or service to sell may approach you with what is essentially an advertisement. Even if you’re just starting out, remember your blog is about presenting yourself to the world, and if something doesn’t work with your audience, politely decline. Good guest bloggers should already have relationship with you: they should have been by to comment a few times, or know you from other blogs.

I’ll talk more about guest blog etiquette in another post.

What about you, scriveners? Do you have any other tips to add? Have you learned any of these things the hard way like I did?

Blog news: Ruth Harris and I now have pages on this blog for our books. Ruth’s is here and mine is here. We’ve got synopses, quotes from reviews and all the links you need to browse our extensive oeuvres. (And they’re all remarkably cheap. Even my paper books are a deal—under $10 bucks.)

Next week Ruth is going to blog on creating fiction based on factual events. And she’ll be doing a giveaway of DECADES, her own novel that is based on real incidents and historical fact.

Today, my mystery SHERWOOD, LTD. will be featured on Saffina Desforges "no bullshit" Sunday series on her SaffiScribe blog. You can find out how much of that book is fiction and how much was based on actual personal misadventures

Next Friday, Catherine Ryan Hyde will be posting an in-depth interview with me on her blog. If you haven’t stopped by her great new interview series , she runs them every Friday on her blog.

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