Skiing at the Brunswick Naval Air Station
My third anniversary seems the right time to share my experience of blogging, especially since my friend Maria Padian asked for advice as a newbie blogger. Do comment with more tips. As I said to Maria, the best part of blogging is the community.
My blog started as a place to gather material for my novels and to stay in touch with friends and family while living abroad. In 2007 my family was moving to England for a year. At lunch with my literary agent in NYC, she encouraged me to start blogging right away. She thought I’d enjoy it. I did, but it took months to build a following.
Back in 2007 the blogging community was barely connected. People were always asking, “What’s a blog?” This was in a time before “followers” and hyperlinked Blogger profiles. RSS feeds were brand new. Dial-up modems were common. Photos slow to load. WiFi rare. System crashes common. I typed in a shoebox in the middle of the road….
Nonetheless, my blog proved to be an invaluable writing tool and a storefront for my artwork. In England I was still working on my American novel S.A.D., and the Maine posts provided inspiration and material, like my lobstering jaunt. Now I revisit the Oxford posts to work on my English novel A MATCH FOR EVE (working title). I’ve sold paintings and photos as well, but the commercial side of blogging is secondary. I don’t sponsor advertisements, and I avoid commercial sites.
Most of all, it’s the community that makes blogging worthwhile. Writing and art are solitary occupations; you are my connection to the world. I look forward all week to my Wednesday blog days. There are true friendships in cyberspace. If you don’t believe that, then you aren’t a seasoned blogger.
Now that I've broken the ice, let me share some blogging tips:
READ other blogs before you start to get ideas. Start commenting.
BLOGGER PROFILE: anyone can create a profile for free, even if your blog is hosted outside Google Blogger or you haven’t started. List all your interests; these are hyperlinks. Use them to find other bloggers who share your interests. Be sure to include an email so people can contact you. Enable share profile; it defaults to hide it.
DON’T SELL: a sales pitch is a big turn off. Many author blogs are boring because all they post are signings, fan mail, sales figures and reviews of their books. If you post good content, people will be interested in your books.
LENGTH: too short is better than too long. People read lots of blogs. Long paragraphs are hard to read, so are colorful fonts and backgrounds. Don’t post every photo from your vacation. Occasional longer posts, like an author interview, are fine. Revise and condense. I know; I’m guilty of long posts like this one!
FREQUENCY: post regularly or you’ll lose your following. An occasional vacation is fine, but let us know when you’ll be back. You can program your blog to publish while you are away in EDIT POSTS under POST OPTIONS. Pick a rhythm that works with your lifestyle, be it weekly or daily. The social side of blogging is time consuming (but rewarding.)
COMMENTING: respond to comments promptly either on your blog or on the commenter’s. Delete ads and abusive comments; don’t respond to them. Visit other blogs and leave comments about that post, but don’t push your blog. If you write thoughtful comments, they’ll come visit you too via your profile. Don't post the same comment every time and everywhere. This is NOT a good comment: I love your blog, come visit mine - link.
FOLLOW: click on “follow this blog” in the sidebar, which will create an RSS feed in your blogger dashboard. Add a follow widget to your blog from LAYOUT. You can also add “blogs I follow” to your sidebar or reveal it on your profile. Don't wait for followers to find you; go find them.
LINK LOVE: to create a community, link to other blogs in your posts and sidebar. If you read a cool post, share it. Personally, I find awards that require the recipient to post and to pass them as irritating as chain letters. I have my own feature, “blog watch,” where I link to posts of interest with no strings attached. Feel free to use that meme but credit me. If you borrow a meme, always credit the source with a link.
ROUND UPS: to broaden your circle, join a regular blog round up. Visit and comment on all posts. I’m a regular contributor to the monthly Book Review Club hosted by Barrie Summy. You can even host your own.
PROTECT MINORS: do not post photos of children with their names and location. There are sick people out there. Also your kids, as they get older, will value privacy. If you swear or post unsuitable content, Google Blogger will ban you.
BOOK BLOGGERS: explain your review criteria and post it in your sidebar along with your contact email. FTC rules in the USA require that you state if you received a free product, like an ARC. Reveal personal connections. Don’t expect publishers to send you ARCs until you have a large following and stats to prove it. Visit your library or join online book swaps if you are short on cash. Everyone knows that Jane Austen is good; review new authors, who need help getting their name out there. You don't need permission to post book jackets, short quotations (but check with publisher if an ARC), book trailers or links to authors. Story Siren posts helpful blogging advice and excellent YA reviews. She has become a hub of the YA blogging community by facilitating connections. Dovegreyreader scribbles blends personal life (Devon, England) with quality reading; I love her blog.
TRACKING STATISTICS: anyone with a Google account can use Google Analytics for free. There is a link to "Analytics" on your "My Account" page. Follow instructions to install the html code on your blog. Don't worry about low stats. It can take 6 months for search engines to find a new site.
HAVE FUN: blogging should not feel like a chore. If it does, take a vacation or stop. Forced posts or whiny ones are not fun to read. If you have nothing to say, you are spending too much time online. Get out there. Enjoy!
If you have more blogging tips, please add a comment. So ends Blogger 101.
Note: shoebox line adapted from Monty Python. I shot the photos at the Brunswick Naval Air Station last weekend. My son took the photos of me and Stella in the fields. Dogs aren't allowed on the groomed ski trails. Maria Padian is a young adult author; check out her new blog, Teens, Writing and Randomness, and say hello.