Are You Ignoring This Simple Platform-Building Tool? How to Comment on a Blog

Whether you're planning to self-publish or go the traditional route, every author needs a "platform" these days.

Some authors obsess too much about platform and waste time on pointless overkill. (More about how to skip the time-wasting stuff in my post, 7 Ways Authors Waste Time Building Platform.)

But others ignore it entirely, often because they're not quite clear on what it means.

It's true that "platform" isn't easy to define. But Jane Friedman, former Writer's Digest editor has written extensively about it. She says when agents say they're looking for author with platform:

"They’re looking for someone with visibility and authority who has proven reach to a target audience."

They'll probably start with "visibility". The first thing any agent, editor, reviewer, blogger—and even many book buyers—will do when you approach them is put your name into Google and hit the "search" button.

The results of that search are a good indication of your platform.

If you don't appear on that first page, or nothing comes up but your letter to the editor supporting John Edwards' Presidential primary campaign, or that picture of you partying at Señor Frog's in Mazatlán on your Spring Break in 2005, your career is not going anywhere.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but:

I can hear the moaning now, especially from my fellow Boomers:

But there's something quick, easy and relatively painless you can do right now to raise your search engine profile that won't take more than a couple of minutes from your writing time.

Ready for it?


Comment on blogs. 

With your real name. (Or whatever name you write under.)

Yup. Comments on high profile blogs get your name onto that Google search page. Also on not-so-high-profile blogs that have been set up by somebody schooled in SEO.

I'm not just talking writing blogs. Any blog that interests you will do (although I strongly advise against anything controversial, because you're going to alienate half your potential readership.)

But I know writers new to the world of social media have lots of reasons for not commenting on blogs. I hear them all the time.

1) "I can't even find the comments half the time!"

If you're my age, the whole concept of blogging may be new for you. I remember being frustrated when I first started. Sometimes I'd find comments, and sometimes I wouldn't. Sometimes I'd land on one post with a thread of comments after it, but sometimes I'd get a whole string of posts with nothing but a thingy at the end saying "37 comments".

Here's the little trick "everybody knows" so they don't bother to tell you—

Click on the "37 comments" (or whatever number) and that will open the post in a new page where all the comments appear at the end of the post. Some blog formats make you hunt around in the sidebar for the "comments" link, but it's there. Keep looking.

Some blogs, like this one, will allow you to reply to a particular comment if you hit the "reply" button under that comment.

Or you can leave a general comment if you hit "reply" at the bottom of the whole thread. (On some Wordpress blogs the reply button is at the top of the thread.)

Click on the header (title of the blog) and it will take you back to the comment-less stream of blogposts.

See? It's not so hard when somebody tells you what to look for.

2) "Why should I comment on Nathan Bransford's (or Kristen Lamb's, David Gaughran's or The Passive Guy's) blog? They never comment on mine."

Nathan has well over 5000 followers of his blog. (He doesn't post the widget anymore, so I've lost track: it's probably over 10K now) He also has 100K followers on Twitter, and 10K in his Google circles. If he spent all day, every day, doing nothing else, even sleeping, he still could not keep up with all his followers' blogs. And remember he's doing it all for free.

But if you comment on his blog, Google will notice YOU, because his blog is on their radar and your name has become part of his "content".

That means you get a bump in YOUR search profile. He doesn't benefit that much from one more comment, but YOU do. The same is true of a comment here.

3) "I'd rather send the blogger a personal email and get a personal answer."

Sure. That's fine. Sometimes the blogger will have time to give you a personal answer. I try to answer them all, even though it gets pretty time-consuming.

But my e-mailed answer is no more personal than my answer in a comment thread, and nobody will see it but you and me.

Last week a number of people sent me personal emails saying they liked the blogpost, and of course I appreciated it. We always like to hear that people are benefiting from our posts.

But I noticed several writers mentioned their own books. Some of the books sounded fascinating.

So let's stop a minute and think about this: what's better for YOU?
Are you seeing why it's better to put your feedback into a comment?

Plus, if you have a question, you can be pretty sure other readers have it too. If I answer in the comments, rather than in a personal email, that's helping ALL our readers, not just you.

4) "I can't figure out how to leave a comment. They want some kind of ID and I don't know how to jump through all those hoops."

Okay: this is a biggie. New tech can be daunting, especially for Boomers. And nobody likes to be rejected, especially by a machine.

Blog software likes people who have blogs, so if you have a blog ID you're in without a problem (usually. For some reason a handful of Wordpress bloggers get blocked from this blog and I don't have a clue why.)

But there are two simple things you can do that can give you IDs that allow you to comment on almost all blogs even if you have no Web presence right now.

1) Get a Gravatar ID

2) Join Google Plus

But before you jump in, make sure the name you're using is the "brand" name you want for your writing career.

First Google yourself (put your name in "quotes" for a more accurate search.) This will tell you if your name is already in use. If your name is as dirt-common as Anne Allen, you don't even need Google to tell you there are hundreds of thousands of women using that name too. There are three Anne Allens in my small town doctor's practice alone.

To stand out, I added my middle initial. Everywhere I go on the Web, I'm annerallen. There are other Anne R. Allens but not as many, and at the moment Google gives me top billing.

Making your name unique is especially important if you share it with somebody famous. So if you're called Rush Limbaugh, Lindsay Lohan or Justin Bieber, choose a pseudonym or trot out a middle name, initial, or use a nickname. Try Rushton Q. Limbaugh or Elle Lohan or J. Montague Bieber.

You want to make this decision before you start to set up your profiles, or you're going to be adding to the other Justin Bieber's platform, not building your own.

And don't use a cutsie moniker. Unless you plan to write all your books under the nom de plume  "scribblersally", "pufferballsmom", or "#1belieber" you don't want to comment on blogs with that handle. Use your professional name, because you're building a professional platform.

Gravatar (which stands for Globally Recognized Avatar) is affiliated with Wordpress, so if you have a Gravatar ID, you can comment on any Wordpress blog and your picture will show up with your comment. (A big plus—you're trying to get visible, remember?) Lots of Blogger blogs will accept a Gravatar/Wordpress ID too. So this is where I'd start if you're brand new.

It's easy. Just go to and post a profile. Have a short bio prepared (info on how to write an author bio here), and choose a photo from your files before you go. The best kind of photo is a friendly, smiling picture of yourself in tight close-up. If you don't have an author photo, you might be able to crop an existing photo (You can crop for free at PicMonkey ), or even use a selfie, as long as it's professional and friendly looking.

And please do use a picture of yourself. Not your cat. Not a baby picture or a cartoon. It needs to be a grown-up picture of you. With clothes on. Beachy photos end up looking like porn spam in thumbnails. Even if you write erotica, save the skin for your website.

Here's more advice on how to sign up for Gravatar from Joel Friedman.

Google Plus isn't hard either. Most people think of Google Plus as a slightly geeky version of Facebook, but you don't actually have to use it for socializing. Simply putting up your profile will get you into Google's databanks. Remember you're trying to get the Google search engine to notice you, so that's a good thing.

If you don't want the hassle of dealing with another social media site right now, simply turn off all "notifications" and they won't bother you. But you'll have a nice profile where people can find out about you, Mr./Ms. Writer, with links to your website/book pages/and any blogs you contribute to.

Make sure you put "writer" in your "employment" even if you're not getting paid to write yet. If you flag yourself as a writer,  it will come up in that Google search. Plus you'll be circled by other writers you can network with when you want to get more social.

In a guest post written for us by SEO expert Johnny Base, there's a video showing you exactly how to sign up.

He has you start by getting a gmail address if you don't already have one. It's a great idea to have a dedicated email address for your writing business, anyway. The only hard part of any of this is choosing a good password and then remembering it. And that's true of anything on the Web, alas. And if you already have a gmail account, you're halfway there.

5) I don't know what to say!

I understand. Writers are shy persons. We'd rather lurk in the shadows. I lurked for months before I started commenting on blogs. That's fine. Do lurk for a while if you're just starting in the blogsphere.

But eventually you'll probably feel moved to say something.

Most bloggers will put some questions at the bottom or the post to invite comments. Good questions will invite you to share your own opinions or experiences with the topic. For some examples of great comments, look at the comment thread from last week's post. Our peeps came up with some wonderful ideas and shared interesting experiences.

You don't have to heap praise on the blogger. Bloggers like praise as much as anybody, but it's best to say something that adds to the discussion. That doesn't mean you should be confrontational or put the blogger down, either. (That's a good way to get deleted.) But say something like,  "Love these 10 tips for getting your cat to eat dry food and I'd like to add a #11..."

Or you can say, "I understand what you're saying about blogging nonfiction only ...but I blog daily cat haikus, and I have 400 followers who love them." You can even include a link to the blog. Every rule has an exception and if you're it, let people know.

You can even say something like, "I'm glad you say it's okay to be a slow writer. It took me 23 years to write Love is a Cat from Hell  but I finally launched it last week." Don't put in a link to a retail buy page, but a mention of your book is fine.

Or, "I love what ScribblerSally said about Maine Coon cats in her comment." This can bring the added perk that ScribblerSally might click on your name to find out more about you and your cat. If you've joined Google Plus or Gravatar, that will take her to a profile with an address for your blog and an email address. She may follow your blog or even buy your book.

You can also say, "I've quoted this post on my blog today and we're having a lively discussion." It's okay to link to the blog here, too. Make sure you always link back to the original blog.

The most useful comments add something to your "authority".
Remember what Jane Friedman said in her definition of platform. So if you can say stuff like, "I was in law enforcement for 20 years and this is what really happens when somebody reports a missing cat..." Or "I'm a social worker who also writes cat haiku and I have proof that cat poetry has healing properties," that will add the most to the discussion.

Plus that little fragment of text that comes up in the Google search of your name will show your name and "I was in law enforcement for 20 years..." A huge help to agents, reviewers, and other people who are trying to find out if you're a reliable person they want to work with.

A good blog comment can be anything from 10 to 300 words. I wouldn't go much longer. If you feel the need to go on and on, you probably have a blogpost of your own there.

Other than that, almost anything goes, with a few caveats:

1) Don't spam.
Bringing up your book when it isn't relevant to the discussion is spamming. Ditto links to your website or buy pages if they don't illustrate a relevant point. Begging people to read your blog is spammy, too.

2) Don't be a troll. Saying insulting things about the blogger or other commenters, or using language that's inappropriate will get you deleted. Ditto political diatribes or religious screeds. Be professional and polite.

3) Don't use emotional blackmail. Don't say, "I just followed this blog, so now you have to follow my five blogs, like my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter and get me a double caf latte while you pick up my dry cleaning." If you demand any kind of quid pro quo for a comment or a follow, you'll look like a doofus to the whole community. Remember everybody who reads the blogpost will see your comment.

4) Don't whine. Dissing Amazon, agents, the publishing business, or trash-talking a bestselling author will generally not work in your favor. Ditto complaining about how nobody reads your blog. Getting your blog noticed by search engines involves many factors: SEO, tech savvy, Tweetable headlines, and original, general-interest content. Nobody owes you readership.

Besides, every author does not need a high profile blog. You simply need a place where fans can find you.

5) Don't expect Nathan Bransford or Kristen Lamb to follow you back or critique your blog. Not because they're snotty. Blogging doesn't work the same way Twitter and Facebook do. If you follow a blog, it shows up in a "dashboard" rss feed, and the number you can follow is limited. (And they can never be deleted as far as I know. If anybody knows how to delete a dead blog from an rss feed, let me know!)

Also, people who get thousands of emails a day can't subscribe to everybody's blog by email or visit every blog. Inboxes get stuffed and carpal tunnels get injured. Nobody has more than 24 hours in their days.

6) "How do I know if it's a 'high-profile blog'?"

To find the big blogs in the publishing industry, just go around to a few writers' blogs. Many will have a "blogroll" in the sidebar. Here's a great example on author Meg Wolf's blog.

If you're planning to publish traditionally, agent blogs are a good place to comment. Rachelle Gardner's and Janet Reid's have big followings (although I see Rachelle's comments have fallen off in a big way: no idea what's up with that.) Writers Digest editors have a number of high ranked blogs: Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents is a biggie.

I use Nathan Bransford's blog and Kristen Lamb's as examples of great all-purpose writing blogs, because they host helpful, nurturing communities, and both of them are generous, savvy industry professionals. But there are dozens of other great blogs for writers, both indie and trad, too many to list here. Don't try to read them all.  Choose one or two to follow and drop in on others when you see them mentioned elsewhere.

1) Followers. Blogs that have more than 500 followers have probably been around a while, so the search engines will have found them.

2) Comments. Blogs with a lot of comments are probably being read by a lot of people, since less than 10% of readers comment.

But many top blogs do not get many comments. Joel Friedlander's and Jane Friedman's don't, but they're a great place for Google to find you.

3) Check out the blog with Alexa It's the most-used website ranking system worldwide. Just copy the url (web address) for any website and paste it in their search window.

Or you can download an icon for your own toolbar (go to "toolbar" on the Alexa site and choose the one for your operating system.) It takes seconds to install, and then you can click on it to automatically see the ranking of any website you visit. Also, if you have the Alexa icon on your toolbar, your own site will rise in the Alexa ratings more quickly, because they'll know you're there.

Alexa lists the top five websites in the world as #1 Google, #2 Facebook, #3 You Tube, #4 Yahoo, #5 Baidu (the Chinese language search engine.)

A blog with an Alexa rating of 500K or less is getting a lot of readers, since there are tens of millions of websites. (Alexa measures all websites, not just blogs.) Our ranking right now is 140K (28K in the US), which we think is kind of crazy for a couple of Boomer authors, but we sure are pleased. But we don't beat Nathan B. at 133K or Kristen Lamb at 112K (way to go Kristen!)

4) But don't just comment on the biggest blogs! Comment on the blogs that interest you. Comment on you favorite author's blog. Comment on cat blogs. Or food blogs. (But avoid the snark-infested waters of political blogs unless you're using a pseudonym.) Alexa ratings rise and fall, but your comment is forever. It may be picked up years from now by some search engine that hasn't even been invented yet.

And be aware that a smaller blog with an engaged audience can be much more useful to you in the long run.

For more info on how to research blogs, check out this great post from Brian Dean at Boost Blog Traffic.

Commenting on blogs is also a great way to make friends. And in the end, that's what a platform REALLY is: how many people feel they "know" you well enough to want to buy one of your books.

What about you, scriveners? Are you out there lurking, not knowing how to comment on a blog? Does this help? Does anybody remember when they made their first blog comment? Was it scary? How did you learn the basics of blogging? What writing blogs are on your "must-read" list? And does anybody know how to delete a dead blog from your Blogger feed? 


If you DO jump through all those hoops and make your very first comment on this blog, you'll be eligible to win a copy of HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE. Just mention "this is my first comment on a blog" and I'll go to to choose a winner to gift with a copy of the ebook. (Or another of my titles if you already have it.)

If you don't have any ID the Blogger elves like yet, and you'd like to make a comment on this blog, email me through the address on our "Contact us" page. Sorry we can't allow anonymous comments. We get so much spam, we either had to block anons or put on the dreaded "CAPTCHA" prove-you're-not-a-robot thing. We decided blocking anons was the lesser of two weevils. 

Book Deal of the Week

No Place Like Home 
99c this month on Amazon US, Amazon UK, and Amazon CA, and Nook

"A warp-speed, lighthearted comedy-mystery"...Abigail Padgett
"A fun, charming novel about the rich and less so" ...Karen Doering
"A cross of dry British humor and American wackiness, and it all adds up to a fun read." ...Deborah Bayles

Coming up on the Blog

Next week, we're going to have a visit from Pam Van Hylckama Vlieg, senior agent at the cutting-edge literary agency, Foreword Literary. She'll be talking about the role of agents in the new publishing paradigm.


THE NEW GUARD FICTION AND POETRY CONTESTS entry fee $15 $1,000 prize for fiction in any genre. Up to 5,000 words: anything from flash to the long story. Novel excerpts are welcome if the excerpt functions as a stand-alone. $1,000 for an exceptional poem in any form. Three poems per entry. Up to 150 lines per poem. Deadline July 14.

Writers' Village International Short Fiction AwardEntry fee £15. This is a biggie. Stories in English up to 3000 words in any genre from anywhere in the world. £3000 First Prize. Judges include iconic mystery author Lawrence Block and Whitbread & Orange short-lister Jill Dawson. £4500 ($7200) in total prizes. The top 50 contestants also get a free critique of their stories. Deadline June 30th.

The 11th Yeovil International Literary Prize Prize categories for unpublished novels, short fiction, poetry. Agents and publishers pay attention to this one. Entry fee £11 for novels. 1st prize £1000. Deadline May 31st.

Flash Prose Contest $15 entry fee. WriterAdvice seeks flash fiction, memoir, and creative non-fiction running 750 words or less. Enlighten, dazzle, and delight us. Finalists receive responses from all judges. First Place earns $200; Second Place earns $100; Third Place earns $50; Honorable Mentions will also be published. Deadline April 18th.

Writers Digest Self-Published Novel Awards. First prize is $3000, plus free tuition to the Writers Digest Writers Conference, promotion in WD and a marketing consult. Many second, third and hon. mention prizes. This is a pricey contest, with entry fee of $99, but a win can open a lot of doors. Fiction or nonfiction. Send bound books only. Early Bird Deadline April 1st

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