Blog Business

I almost forgot to post! Thank you, Life Means Books, for reminding me!

Congratulations to those of you who raced with NaNoWriMo! How did it go? Please tell us your challenges and triumphs and what you learned along the way.

On November 20, 2020, Christie wrote, I recently picked up your book, Writer to Writer, for my daughter during the pandemic home time. I recently realized I could use a little inspiration as well. I started a business last year that has now moved completely online. With that comes the blog….for me…the dreaded blog. I was wondering if you may have some suggestions for a person new to blog writing?

I wrote back and asked Christie what kind of business hers is, and she hasn’t answered, but I moved her question up in the queue anyway because it seems urgent when so many enterprises are struggling. I hope the post will interest others, too, and I hope those of you who write a blog will offer your ideas.

I also hope Christie isn’t relying only on me for information. I’m sure there are more knowledgeable sources. I’d suggest googling and searching online bookstores. I’ll bet there are books on successful blogging.

This blog was sparked by an email from my publisher to all its authors, urging us to become more active on social media. I considered the options and decided a blog would suit me best, although since then, I’ve posted as well on Facebook and Instagram. I have eschewed (a word I rarely have a chance to use!) Twitter, because I’ve heard things about it that make me shudder.

So the impulse to blog came from the marketing side. I figure that the blog does have a small positive effect on sales of my books, and I hope that, as well as the blog, blog readers read my books, which I sometimes mention while I’m writing them. (As an aside, if you are more of a library-book reader than a book buyer, you can encourage your library to acquire my books, and I will be grateful.)

However, as the blog accumulated readers and writers started commenting, and because writing has my heart, creating it became a joy. And continues to be. As I’ve written many times, I love the helpful exchanges that take place here.

The blog has a voice, which is my voice at its most positive–but it is genuinely mine. If you met me in person, I think you wouldn’t be surprised at what I say and how I say it.

So that’s one strategy: we want to be ourselves on our blog. To achieve this, it may be helpful to look not only at my posts but also at the comments, because the comments are also written in a natural style that reflects the writer. I haven’t tested this, but I suspect I’d recognize the voices of several of you if I closed my eyes and someone read to me.

Write a page or two. Your blog posts don’t have to be long! As you write, imagine that you’re telling whatever you’re saying to a friend. Then show what you’ve written to a few supportive people. Ask them if you sound like yourself or if you’ve gone all formal. If you sound like a technical manual rather than yourself, edit for shorter words and shorter sentences. Include your own opinions about the topic, especially your enthusiasm.

I’m assuming that Christie is passionate about her business. We should make sure our readers know we care, which we can say head on. We can say, I love toenail clippers! Imagine life without them! I have devoted myself to them in all their variety, which I bring to you in my shop and now in these posts.

If you can, incorporate a little story in your post, because people are drawn to the shape of a story. Above, I gave this blog’s origin story. You can do the same. You can begin the blog with its origin story or with the origin story of your business.

As the blog continues, don’t worry about repeating yourself. I think of this blog as the writing analog of a wedding magazine. The topics are limited, but there’s always something new to say. Wedding dresses, for instance, are endlessly fascinating. Likewise, in writing: villains, plot, character development, and so on–but there are only so many.

Some people read all the posts in the blog, which is an undertaking by now. But others read just the latest one. I’m happy with either way of experiencing it.

Think about the audience you want. What will interest them? If you want to promote something in particular, consider why your audience will enjoy reading about it. I’d suggest not marketing constantly. You might give readers an insight into why you chose a certain item as something you wanted to sell. Is there a story behind it? What adventures has the business brought you to?

If you can persuade people to ask you questions, everything will be easier. (Thank you, everyone!) You’ll be certain that at least one person, and probably many more, wants an answer.

I don’t use images, but you may want to. Feel free!

My blog readers found me, with the help of NaNoWriMo. You may have an email list of customers. Let them know you’ve started a blog. Let family and friends know. Put a sign in your window. There must be other ways too that I don’t know.

Here are three prompts:

• Write a post from Rapunzel’s blog, which she writes in her tower.

• Your MC’s enemy writes a gossip blog, which is widely read. He posts viciously about your MC. Write his post. If you like, continue and write what follows.

• Your MC is a spy behind enemy lines. She writes a well-known cooking blog in which she conceals info for the intelligence service at home. When she realizes that her cover has been blown, she writes a final post, knowing she can’t use the usual code. Write the story and the blog posts. If you can, make the recipes part of it all.

Have fun, and save what you write!

The blog on blogging

On September 3, 2012, Leslie Marie wrote, …how about a post about WRITING blogs? Just a thought. I’d like to start one but have absolutely no idea what to write. I think my biggest block is just fear of some sort holding me back!

I follow only one blog, written by a former student about her unfolding experience in the Peace Corps in Moldova. Before, I’m not sure I’d ever heard of Moldova, which used to be part of the Soviet Union and  is the poorest country in Europe. Now, I know how warm and friendly people are, how education doesn’t seem to be as highly valued as it might be, how people are forced by poverty to work in other countries, leaving their children behind with other relatives, and on and on. Kerry posts irregularly but frequently, not at all some weeks, several times others. She includes photos and videos and links to articles, but mostly it’s her own fascinating (and well-written!) commentary on her experience. Interestingly, I almost never see any comments. I assume the blog is mostly read by family and friends, and they’re in touch with her in other ways.

Leslie Marie, I’m not sure if one of your fears is about finding blog readers. The way I started to build an audience was entirely accidental. I was invited to write a message for NaNoWriMo-ers and included the URL for this blog, which was pretty new. My message went live, and – boom! – I had followers. Whenever I speak at a school or a conference I give out information on my blog and website. The numbers continue to build, but slowly. In getting ready to write this post I googled “how to bring traffic to a blog” and found an interesting site. If you hope to attract a big audience, you can google, too. To start, however, you can tell everyone you know about your blog and ask them to spread the word if they like it.

I also googled “blogs about writing,” and found lists of the most popular sites, whose subscribers number in the thousands. At this moment I have 434 followers, plus, I’m sure, people who check out the site without ever signing up. The other blogs must have such visitors too. From what I read the most popular bloggers guest post on other blogs and include guest posts on theirs. They also have book giveaways. It seems that people can earn money by blogging, which I do not do – except when reading my blog causes you to buy one of my books. Some sites advertise books about writing written by other authors. If a reader clicks or buys, I’m not sure which or possibly both, the blogger gets paid (very little). I didn’t see general advertising on any of the sites I checked out, but some may carry ads and get paid for clicks that result. One of the blogs had a tab through which a visitor could hire him as a freelance blogger or writer, so that may be another source of income. The writing advice seemed useful. None of it – but I didn’t search extensively – made me sputter in outrage.

For any of you who are thinking about ways to be a writer and still eat while you establish your place in literature, blogging may be part of the picture, but you’ll have to do more research. Social media keep changing. We need to stay up to date.

I’m proud that many readers of this blog are teenagers and  that some are even younger and that some of you post comments and questions. And I’m over the moon that you’re wild about writing.

I also clicked on some of your blogs. Agnes, you haven’t kept it up, but I think your idea of a blog as a resource for homeschoolers is great. If you continue with it, please let me know and I’ll post the URL, because, as you probably know, a lot of homeschooled kids read this blog. I suspect there would also be interest from other people (such as me) in what it’s like to be homeschooled – homeschooling is entirely different from my school days.

Agnes, you have a few blogs going, each with a different purpose. That’s terrific, too. You can fool around, try one thing, then another, and another.

One kind of blog can be about yourself and your life. I checked out the blogs of some fellow kids’ book writers, too, and many of them are chronicles of their days along with insights into the sorts of people they are. A friend suggested that I do that, which in a way is making myself – and yourself – a character, because we can never present our whole selves in all our complexity. We have to decide what aspects of us we want to share. I imagine this kind of blog is similar to writing a memoir. The memoirist becomes a character, someone whose company the reader enjoys.

And this sort of a blog would be somewhat like journaling if you were writing for more than yourself. Suppose you visit your Aunt Susan and you blog about the day. Well, you want to give your reader an image of your aunt, so you write that you adore or despise her or love her for the first hour until she starts driving you crazy. You say that she wears her brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, and her lipstick is always fading. Is there a brand that sells faint lipstick? you wonder. (You can post photos of her, too.) When you hug her tight you’re surprised again at how thin she is under her big wool sweater. Then she starts questioning you about everything and you’re grateful for her interest until she asks about Nora, your best friend until the two of you fought last week and you really don’t want to talk about that, and you say you don’t want to discuss it and she says, “All the more reason to get it off your chest,” and you’re wishing she had lost her voice.

The point is, we want to include as much detail in our blog as we put in our fiction. Blogging is writing, after all.

This is all amusing and interesting with Aunt Susan, but suppose your thoughts are more hostile than wishing that she’d lost her voice. In your journal, to be read only by you, you might write those angry thoughts. You might let yourself be whiny and resentful. You might wonder why you’re cursed with such a nosy aunt and why she has to heat her house to ninety degrees, and why she can’t cook anything but meatloaf that tastes like shredded cardboard. That’s fine in a private journal. Ranting is one of the joys of journaling. But not in a blog. These things follow us for decades!

(One of the joys of writing fiction is that we can make a character whiny, and no one will connect the character with us.)

And remember that when you post, you are publishing. A blog is a form of e-publishing.

Now that I’ve scared you silly, I think blogging is very worth doing if you’re careful.

In addition to writing about your life in general, you can:

∙ pick a single aspect of your life to blog about, like public or private or home school or babysitting or your writing;

∙ take a journalistic approach and report on doings that interest you;

∙ blog about the news and present your own take on events;

∙ have friends write guest posts;

∙ present interviews of interesting people in your life;

∙ write a how-to, how to make pie crust from scratch, how to paint with watercolors, whatever;

∙ combine all the above.

Like Agnes, I chose to blog about a subject I know well, and my blog is a kind of how-to about writing. I’m very aware of you blog readers out there in cyberspace, so I set a tone, which I hope is friendly, encouraging, down to earth, funny. The blog does create a version of me as a character. I’m friendly, etc., in real life, too – but not always.

I aim for clarity and usefulness. I want you to be able to put my thoughts to work in your stories. If I’m ever less than clear I would welcome being told.

I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t started asking questions. I could have written about what I was grappling with week-to-week in my writing, but I wouldn’t have thought of all the topics you’ve raised. So I’m grateful. If you comment a few times I start to feel that I know you a little. E. S. Ivy, to single you out, I think of you as supremely helpful and supportive. You’re not the only one who helps, though. One of the things I love about the blog is the aid many of you give other writers against the confusion that sometimes afflicts us all.

Then there’s the frequency of your blog. If you’re collecting an audience you don’t want to disappoint them by dropping out of sight for six weeks. Some people post daily, some weekly, and some when the fancy strikes – but I don’t think bloggers in the last group are concentrating on readers. As you all know, I post weekly. If I have to skip a week I give you advance warning.

And there’s length. Some who post every day deliver short bursts. Others write lengthy daily posts; I don’t know how they find the time. I feel I want to give you your money’s worth (hah!), so my posts are substantial and I’m not satisfied until I fill two single-spaced pages and start a third (this post is exceedingly long).

Last: prompts. Naturally not every blog offers prompts, but I do, because what’s a writing blog without exercises? And I love writing them. How do I do it? Well, I consider the problem of the blog, in this case blogging itself. I’ll do it now, to demonstrate. First, what’s inside this post that I can use? Hmm… Aunt Susan! Maybe Nora, too. Where can I find conflict?

And I think about the blog topic itself, in this case blogs. What can I do with that directly? And with the possibility of trouble from exposing oneself unguardedly online?

Here goes. These are the prompts I came up with:

∙ Whether or not you actually set up an online blog, write a post for three different kinds of blogs.

∙ Write a story about your main character Madison and her Aunt Susan. Create an argument. Resolve it happily or not. Have best friend Nora come up.

∙ Madison blogs about the confrontation with Aunt Susan. She’s careful not to write anything that will hurt anyone, or so she thinks, but Nora reads the post and reads between the lines, too. Write Madison’s post and what follows from Nora. Again, resolve it happily, or not.

∙ Madison applies to a music school (or starship school or unicorn training school) she desperately wants to get into. Her audition goes brilliantly well, or so she thinks until the school rejects her. She’s furious and posts her rage on the blog, suggesting that the school’s admission policies are rigged. Write how this post changes her life.

Have fun, and save what you write!