Monday, October 12, 2009

Writers and Blogging

I'm kind of annoyed because I have had this blog post in draft for a while, and last week there were what seemed like a tragillion discussions in the blogosphere about author websites, which pretty much beat me to it. However, I still have a lot to say about author web sites and blogging.

We all know how important it is for writers to have a blog, at all stages in their career. Building a web presence and platform does the following:
  • Shows potential agents and publishers that you're serious about communicating to readers and continuing your online presence
  • Begins early outreach to readers so that once your book comes out, you have some supporters
  • Gives you a way to start building your professional brand
From what I can see, there are some basics that every writer should have on their blog. I'll list them below by unpublished writers and published writers. At the end, I'll offer tips on how you can take things a little further.

Unpublished Writers
Your blog should, at a minimum, include the following elements:

A focus. If you're just blogging about what you ate, it's not terribly interesting and you might not have repeat traffic (always depending on what it was you ate, of course). If you blog about your writing process and publishing, as most of us do, then you're in a good place. Being random (including what you ate) is okay too, as long as you have a focus. You must not be an ass, though.

A short "About Me" space. Let's say there's an agent who reads a blog, and you commented on a post, and it was clever. The agent clicks on your profile and follows it to your blog, which is also clever. The agent likes your style and voice. So tell the agent who you are and what you're doing! Use the sidebars in blogging templates to do this and do it near the top of the page (as you can see, I have this). OK, an agent noticing you on your commenting prowess is unlikely, but I'll tell you: many a time I have stumbled on a writer's blog and wanted to know what genre they write, whether they're published, and where they're located. These are basics. They help you connect.

Labels. You want to build your blog full of relevant topics, and the Labels feature shows that you blog a lot, your topics are varied, and what kind of focus you have.

A link to your web site. Now, I know, a lot of writer bloggers don't yet have web sites, or they use their blogs as web sites (which is perfectly acceptable). But if you have one, your site is your virtual business card and more, so link it, baby.

Your followers. I balked for a long time over making my followers visible, but I relented when I realized that people look at the number of followers you have to help determine your blog traffic. I recently asked a wonderful published author if I could interview her for the blog, and I worried very much after pressing the send button whether she would see that I don't have 1000 followers and decide not to do it. However she is very gracious, as you could see.

What you blog, as an unpublished writer, should NOT include:
  • Nasty posts about agents, publishers, or other writers.
  • Your rejections, and your comments about them.
  • Anything that you would not want your mother, ex-boyfriends, or a prospective agent to see. Because they'll all check. (Hi, guys!)

Published Writers
At a minimum, I want to see this from published writers:
  • Information about your book. A picture, a link to buy, a quick synopsis.
  • Information about your next book. Where are you in the process? When is it expected out?
  • A prominent link to your web site. At your web site, of course, you'll list who you are, what you write, and who you're represented by. (Although sometimes this last is a personal choice).
  • A cohesive design tied to your web site.

Taking it Further
The biggest thing about blogging and web sites is to make them look alive. You need stuff that makes you look alive and dynamic. For unpublished writers, you pretty much have to post often. For published writers, you can get away with posting less often--everyone understand you're terribly busy pounding out your next book--but not too infrequent or you'll lose traffic. I confess that it's hard work ensuring frequent posts throughout the work week, but this is the reality of Platform these days. I totally cheat by writing posts ahead of time and then scheduling them for publication later, which is a nice feature that Blogger has. (I don't know if Wordpress has it.)

Notice my sidebar item over to the right there (just there---->), "Upcoming Posts." Yes! You can see what I'll be posting about next! This blog also has something similar: a blog schedule guide, which lists what theme the blogger will post on. Kind of cool and doesn't require much maintenance.

  • INTERN has a very good roundup of what author web sites (and therefore blogs) should have, and I agree with all of her points.


CKHB said...

"Anything that you would not want your mother, ex-boyfriends, or a prospective agent to see. Because they'll all check."

I like the concept of the ex-boyfriend test. I'm actually friends with most of mine, but there's always SOMEONE you can think of to fit that description. The guy who fired you, or your current/future bosses. The girl who refused to go out with you in high school. The ex. THEY WILL FIND YOU. Blog safely.

(I *did* remember that your book is set in Greece! I'm sure your Greek is better than mine...)

Tina Lynn said...

Looks like I had better take it up a notch:D

Meghan Ward said...

Great post, Sierra! As you can see, I am catching up on reading your blog!

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