#FixThatBlog – Bloggers Must Be Blog Readers

Imagine some guy going to Hollywood who had never once seen a movie. Looking for work, he decides to go to a movie studio head and ask for a job making movies. The studio head is inclined to give the guy a chance, and gives the fellow a list of movies to rent. The guy shakes his head. He doesn’t want to watch movies, he just wants to make movies. And get paid for it of course.

That’s not the way it works of course. Movie makers start out by watching lots of movies. Book writers start out as book readers, and short story writers start as short story readers. And if you want your blog to be worth reading in a world crowded with blogs, you must read blogs yourself.

Blog reading helps you to know the art form that is blogging. You need to read the great blogs, the sad-and-sorry blogs, and those in between. You need to read blogs in your own blog’s niche, and blogs on other topics.

The main thing you are looking for when reading blogs is the content. Some blogs have a nifty look, some are more plain, but that doesn’t really count. What matters to blog readers is the content. Blog readers are usually people who have done an internet search looking for specific information. They read blog posts (and other web sites) that seem to have the information they want. If a blog doesn’t look promising as a source of that information, they move on to another blog or website in seconds.

In time, many people become regular readers of a blog that seems to have a lot of good information. They keep coming back for more. The most popular blogs in each niche have discovered the secret of attracting regular readers. Sad-and-sorry blogs are more likely blogs that put off readers.

How do you become a blog reader? I mean, the mechanics of it? Search engines are a start. Try doing a search on [blogs} + [your niche] and you will come up with some possibilities. Among your search results you may find ‘The Ten Best Writing Blogs’ or ’25 Author Blogs You Must Read’ or ‘The 20 Best Low-Carb Recipe Blogs’— whatever your niche is. These can be a great resource in finding some of the best-known blogs in your niche.

Both Blogger and WordPress . com have a blog reading tool, but I don’t currently use either all that much. Currently I use Bloglovin’, which makes it easy to follow new blogs. Copy-and-paste the URL of a blog you have found that looks good into the search box at Bloglovin’. The blog in question will come up, and you can follow it. Then the posts in that blog will end up with others in your feed.

Please follow my blog with Bloglovin

Suggestion: avoid following the very high end professional blogs that have multiple writers and post many times a day or even more than once an hour. They will clog up your Bloglovin’ feed bigtime. You might try a second type of blog reader for blogs like that you just can’t miss.

Once you have a number of blogs to read, you will have stuff to look at in your daily blog-reading session. This may give you ideas on what to blog about. NOT that you will ever be copying someone else’s blog idea for the day, or even writing something very similar just now. You might write a reaction post with multiple links to the original post on Someone Else’s Blog, in which you give a different perspective. You could even slam every single bit of Someone Else’s blog post, but that would mean you are not really a nice person and I refuse to believe that of you. I believe you will take the high road and even when you strongly disagree with a post you are reacting to, you will be so polite and so positive that the Someone Else whose blog post you are reacting to will actually be flattered that you mentioned his blog post. You’re just that kind of blogger.

Good Writing/Author Blogs:

The Creative Penn https://www.thecreativepenn.com/

Joanna Penn also does writing-related podcasts.

Jeff Goins, Writer  https://goinswriter.com/blog/

Much aggressive marketing on this website. Popups galore.

Jane Friedman  https://www.janefriedman.com/blog/

A Pius Man: http://www.declanfinn.com/

Declan Finn is a friend, I’ve named a kitten after him. (Declanna.)

Dawn Witzke http://dawnwitzke.com/

Also a friend, but there are no kittens named after her yet.

Tyrean Martinson  https://tyreanswritingspot.blogspot.com/

Jon Del Arroz http://delarroz.com/

Another friend. My kitten Jon-with-Rice is named after him.

#FixThatBlog – Understanding Your Blog’s History

No matter how bad you think your current blog is, it has a history. You have posted on it in the past— maybe you posted the ‘wrong’ things, or you are embarrassed by what you posted, or your blog has had few readers, comments or visitors— but your blog has a history and now it is time to assess that history.

If you have a blog on WordPress or Blogger, your blog has ‘stats’ built in. You can check these stats at any time. You can find out how many page views or unique visitors your blog had today— or you can check your blog’s all-time history. What blog posts have been the most viewed?

Now, your oldest blog posts have had the most time to accumulate history and so they will have the most views and visitors. But some posts have done better than others posted at or near the same time. What are those posts about? And how do the topics of those posts relate to your major blog topic, or niche?

If you have an author blog, and your earlier posts were all about events in your brilliant writing career which hasn’t been successful yet, you may find a lot of ignored posts, and then a few off-topic posts that drew more visitors. Perhaps they still draw more visitors to this day.

These rare ‘evergreen’ posts draw visitors because they answer a question that people are doing internet searches for. Or maybe the title just sounds like they will answer such a question. We like getting visitors like that, because we hope some will stay and become regular blog readers.

The problem is when your ‘evergreen’ topics and your regular blogging topics don’t have much in common. You want readers who are interested in your blog’s niche, not just in your one-time rant about Elizabeth Warren or the Green Bay Packers.

One thing that helps is to look at other blogs that are in your niche. What topics do they address? You actually don’t want to address the exact same topics that every other blog in your niche does. You want to address the less common topics— to answer the questions that not everyone else has answered. If you are the one blogger who answers these questions, you will be at the top of search results and will find readers that way. You may also intrigue people on Twitter or Facebook when you share your blog posts there.

Now, the stats built in to your blog are not the only measure of whether your blog posts are being read. Google Analytics can tell you how long visitors stay on your posts— you don’t want to attract a lot of one-second visitors who will dash away because your blog post is not what they wanted. Also, any interactive comments your posts draw show that the post in question drew some interest.

When you plan your newest blog posts, you want to think about your blog’s history. What post topics have done well in the past? You want ‘more like that!’

#FixThatBlog – Can Bloggers Do Without Twitter/Facebook?

If you are conservative or moderate in your opinions, or if you have friends who are, you will probably already know that both Twitter and Facebook are wildly hostile ground for conservatives and everyone who is less than progressive/liberal. You can get your page taken down from Facebook for quoting the wrong Bible verse! And I’ve heard of someone who got their Twitter account taken down for having been retweeted by Donald Trump— even though I haven’t heard of them threatening Pres. Trump’s Twitter account— Twitter knows good free advertising for their service when it sees it.

I have had a lot of friends get suspended or banned at Facebook or Twitter. Sometimes they get sick of the whole game and migrate to newer social media like Gab or MeWe. But the problem is that alternative social media are small ponds. If you are trying to get attention for your blog posts or your books, they are not where the eyeballs are. The eyeballs are still over at TwitFace, sadly.

The key to using Facebook and Twitter is to remember that those social media are run by blind progressives who take it as dogma that all Republicans are members of the (Democrat-only) KKK organization— even, presumably, Herman Cain and Ben Carson. Therefore anything you post that isn’t progressive propaganda is suspect.

But a key to using any social media is that bland/generic posts vanish, only things that are a little rough or even shocking get attention. You want your post to go viral, you have to do something to get attention. And if you do something to get attention and are not progressive, you can get banned.

So what should your strategy be? If you don’t currently have a world-famous blog, I’d suggest you go ahead and use Twitter and Facebook, and post what you like (unless you like death threats and pictures of private parts.) Do (civilized) things to get attention. If your account is banned or suspended, you might think of just starting a different account, especially on Twitter.

You might also think of having a targeted Twitter or Facebook account. I did this when I had a separate blog for Keto diet posts, and a Twitter account to go with it. On that Twitter account, I followed only diet-related accounts, and posted only on that topic. Since my political opinions were not a part of that Twitter account, I didn’t post anything political there no matter the temptation.

If political opinion is a main topic of your blog, of course, you won’t use the apolitical-account approach. You will seek accounts that share your opinions, mostly, plus a few high-profile opposition to retweet along with the comment ‘can you believe THIS!’ or similar.

Minor or new social media, especially those that cater to freedom of speech advocates, have their uses, but they won’t replace the Big Boys. If you get banned/suspended from the Big Boys a lot, you may need to cultivate those alternative accounts to stay in touch with some of your True Fans. My Gab and MeWe accounts seemed kind of dead when I was using them a lot, but I realized I had far fewer friends/followers in those places. If I worked those accounts I would probably have a livelier time on those social media. But as I’ve not even been suspended once from Twitter and Facebook, I must admit I haven’t considered it a priority.

If I did have a problem with repeated suspensions or banning at TwitFace, rather than abandoning those sites altogether I would have a bland, non-controversial account that mainly served to share my blog posts and retweet/share the stuff of selected other people, and put a lot more effort into my MeWe account. (In fact, I think I need to start working on my MeWe account right now, at least in the sense of visiting it each time I blog and sharing my blog posts there. I get lazy because my blog posts can be shared to TwitFace as part of the WordPress. com posting experience.)

#FixThatBlog – Blog Housekeeping

The longer you have— and post in— a blog, the more your blog will need housekeeping. Any post currently on your blog can win you a new reader who finds you through a search engine. You want to make a good first impression!

One housekeeping chore is when you revise your concept of the niche or theme of your blog. You may find a lot of your own posts no longer fit. Should you go on a post-deleting binge? Not really. Some of my ‘off-topic’ blog posts are also my evergreen posts— every day they get a hit or two. Do those hits translate into readers? Probably only rarely, but still, it’s nice to have a blog that receives regular visitors whether they stay or become fans or not.

One type of post you CAN easily delete is the years-ago no-longer-valid post. You may have made an excited blog post or two five years ago about a traditional publisher that showed interest— only to find that the traditional publisher turned out to be a vanity press who was lying to you and would accept any work as long as the author paid the money.

Or you ranted against a politician you then hated but support now. Or you shared chapters from a work-in-progress that you never finished and now no longer want to finish. Or you wrote posts to justify Amazon affiliate links but Amazon since kicked you out of the program for not making enough sales in the first three months (that happened to me.)

Any old post that seems no-longer-valid and that has no comments, doesn’t regularly draw in new readers or visitors, and isn’t really about your niche anyway might be fodder for deletion. You don’t HAVE to delete old posts, but if you really feel some of them are dragging your blog down, delete them. Or revise!

Revising posts you have already posted may seem like a waste of time, but some of them are well worth revising. An evergreen post (that gets regular visits) that has spelling errors or is out of date in some way can be brought up to date. A rewrite of a post that is drawing new visitors through search engines might improve it to the point that the next few visitors stay longer and read the whole thing, or even go on to read other articles on your blog.

Revising old posts that don’t regularly draw new visitors may be a waste of time unless they contain old information that must be corrected, or unless the headline is misspelled or ungrammatical. Sometimes you can just leave it up to add to your blog’s total post number. A blog with 500 posts impresses readers far more than a blog with 12 posts.

Another housekeeping task lies in updating your categories and tags, or your labels. In WordPress blogs you can use categories and tags to sort your blog posts. Categories can be in a hierarchy— that is, under ‘blogging’ I can have the categories ‘blog hops’ and ‘blog improvement.’ You can give more than one category to a post. Also, on WordPress you can use tags. I use this when I mention a writer, such as Declan Finn, or a podcaster, such as Jimmy Moore. I can make a tag of their names and then readers can find other posts mentioning the same person, and it doesn’t clutter up the categories. In Blogger, however, you have to use labels for both functions.

I once made the mistake of eliminating a bunch of categories to make my category system more logical. The result was that a lot of posts became ‘Uncategorized’ and as a result that category became the top category. So from time to time I get ambitious and start going through old ‘Uncategorized’ posts, giving them real categories. My goal is to get rid of that ‘Uncategorized’ category in time.

Another blog housekeeping task is to regularly check your blog’s PAGES. Pages are those most important, just-under-the-blog-name tabs that are often called ‘About Me’ or ‘Contact Me’ or that list your books, book signings, and other important stuff. If you delete your Twitter account but it is still on your contact page, that is a BAD thing. It can be a good habit to look over your pages once a month just to catch any things that need updating. More, if you have a page for book signings and public appearances that needs to be kept up to date.

#FixThatBlog – Blogging and your WIP

This is a post in the #FixThatBlog series about fixing neglected author blogs, and also the July post in the Insecure Writers’ Support Group blog hop. See, multitasking!

A writer must write. Write on his works-in-progress, and finish first draft and other drafts. But he must also write blog posts so he can build a platform, right? But how do you find the time to do both?

You make the time. Platform-building, in the form of writing your blog posts, and writing your writing-works are both being-a-writer tasks. As are finding agents and traditional publishers, or finding book cover artists and editors-for-hire, depending on whether you are seeking indie writer or traditionally-published writer status.

But it’s tricky. I have a lot of days when I either write blog posts or do work on my WIP. I’ve been trying to schedule a second writing session in my evenings when I usually watch boring crap on television. But due to my health problems and to cheats on my ketogenic ‘lifestyle’ I am too exhausted in the evenings lately to actually do it. I must think of some other solution.

We writers are multi-taskers. We write on our WIPs, but we also go to our day jobs or get our laundry done or cook our meals. And make our bulletproof coffees. There have been cases of writers who took a year’s sabbatical to finally have time for their writing work— and they get even less done than when they were busy with a day job.

I’m not a perfect person on being organized or on Getting-Things-Done. I have Asperger Syndrome (autism spectrum disorder), which can make a person seem like they have attention deficit disorder as far as being organized and getting things done is concerned. And I’m not a spring chicken any more, and so have a set of health problems that cause a lot of fatigue, especially when I don’t watch my diet. So I have to adapt whatever advice I get from books to what works for me.

Days of the week are one ‘organizational’ tool I have. My garbage pickup is on Wednesday, so an important task on Tuesday is getting the garbage gathered and the garbage cart taken to the curb. Since this blog, since my recent small stroke in February, is also replacing a ketogenic diet blog I don’t have time for, I use Thursday as ‘keto day’ on this blog and make keto posts then. The first Wednesday in the month is Insecure Writers Support Group day. Saturday I can write about my cats or critters, and Sunday I can write things related to Christianity.  This gives me a bit of a planning scheme that I can remember.

To learn more about writing and time management, read How to Manage the Time of Your Life by James Scott Bell. (JSB writes a lot of how-to-write books that are very useful, and also writes mystery novels in the Evangelical Christian fiction market.)

To learn more about Getting-Things-Done, pick up  Getting Things Done by David Allen. This book has been found so useful by so many people that it made the book into an actual bestseller— as in ‘New York Times bestseller.’

IWSG folks on Blogger: if you have that ‘prove you are not a robot’ thing enabled, I cannot comment on your blog post. Sorry. It just doesn’t work on my computer and I’m sick of writing comments that don’t get posted so I have stopped trying.

Have you had any conflicts between getting your WIP done and writing your author-blog posts? Or getting your other tasks done? What do you do about the conflict? Have you found a solution that works for you?

#FixThatBlog Your Blog’s Niche

A blog niche is the topic or topics of your blog. A blog about budget travel is different from a blog about celebrity gossip or one based on a Moravian pastor’s sermons. Each of those blog niches will attract a different audience. The fellow jonesing for a fresh Moravian sermon won’t be grateful to read the latest about a transgender celebrity who is featured nude in Playboy!

If you already have a blog with a bunch of posts, check your all-time stats. On this blog, my top posts are my post about the Lutheran rosary and my interview with Moira Greyland, author of ‘The Last Closet’ about her abusive parents, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Walter Breen. Neither of these is about my blog’s niche, alas. I’m not drawn to writing a blog about Lutheran devotions (since I’m now Catholic) or about sexual abusers of children.

One bit of bad advice about blog management is to pick a niche which can be easily ‘monetized.’ One ebook I’ve read suggests a blog niche about high-ticket consumer goods which you can review, and have affiliate links for. The author even suggests ‘reviewing’ items you have not purchased, owned or used! No one wants fake reviews and ‘monetized’ blogs. Blog readers want content. Interesting content.

What can you blog about that would be interesting, and might relate to your writing work? If you are an Evangelical author of Amish romances, you can blog about Amish culture or Evangelical faith items, but you probably shouldn’t dedicate your blog to reviewing the latest in deer hunting rifles and accessories. Unless you work hunting in to all your romance novels because it’s your thing. (Even though I don’t normally read romances, an Amish deer hunting romance might tempt me, especially from a passionate author.)

‘Author blog’ might seem to be enough of a niche, but there are different types of author blogs. Some are about the writing process. Others are about the author’s genre, and perhaps book reviews of other author’s work in the genre. Authors passionate about their faith or their political perspective might include those things as topics in their blog, especially if those topics show up in their books. Others might have blogs that are neutral on religion and politics, but very keen on cats, pet snakes, or the Boston Red Sox. These topics will attract some readers, bore and repel others.

What do you call your blog niche? Suppose you are a Christian and you write ‘paranormal’ (vampire) romance. Is your niche ‘Christian romance’ or ‘paranormal romance’ or ‘vampire romance?’ Or is it a more widely focussed writing blog? A Christian author of romances might talk about similar secular works, or Christian fiction in other genres. And ‘Christian’ covers a lot of ground. Most of us are not generic ‘mere Christians’ but Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists, Moravians or Pentecostals. Maybe you are going to be reaching out to Christian authors and readers of similar faith backgrounds.

I would recommend using a search engine like Duck Duck Go to research your potential blog niche. Look for ‘Christian fiction blogs’ or ‘conservative romance blogs’ or ‘Neopagan fantasy fiction blogs,’ whatever you conceive your likely niche to be. Are there other blogs with similar niches to yours? What do those bloggers call their niche? Or are they even aware of their niche?

One thing about your blog niche— it can, if necessary, be changed. Each blog post you write, whether a bulls-eye for your current niche or not, is a chance to attract new readers. You can use your blog stats, and the comments on the posts, to see which posts are attracting readers. You can shade your blog’s niche in the direction of what is working for you at the moment.

Think about the things you write about in your books or works-in-progress. And the things you have blogged about, or might blog about. What can you write about in a unique and interesting way? If you have blogged for a while, do you need to narrow your focus? Or perhaps widen it? Or shift it altogether?

#FixThatBlog – Should you blog about your current WIP?

When you are considering what to blog about, things from your current work-in-progress may jump into mind. You may think of posting your worldbuilding notes, or character sketches, or that super-duper scene you just wrote. That will get people all excited about your coming book, right?

Wrong. If people read your blog post and do have a little interest in your story, the first thing they will discover is that your book not only isn’t available for sale yet, it isn’t even finished! Books can take YEARS to get the first draft finished, and then there are other drafts, and the process of finding a traditional publisher or going through a hired editor to make your book ready for self-publishing. Even if you personally write quite quickly, the casual readers who find your blog may assume your book is something that will happen far in the future. They will be disappointed. They are not going to keep checking back with your blog to see if it’s published yet.

Also, if you post things about your WIP while writing, you are restricting yourself. That brilliant idea you had today may not work out a few chapters down the line. When you keep your first draft private, you can change everything around without worry. Put the story in a whole new setting, eliminate your main character and elevate a minor character into that place, do what you think works best.

If you have been sharing your WIP as you compose the first draft, you are inhibited. If you published your character sketch of Jakko as your main character, you worry that your blog readers will not like it if you make Heino your main character instead. And you will get feedback that may inhibit your first draft progress. They may dislike your characters or your storyline. Or they may love you character but assume she’s going to be a feminist heroine and that not only isn’t your intention, it’s something you don’t want to do.

Also, fictional stories may never be finished. Lawrence Block, famous author who also wrote how-to-write books, started a few novels he couldn’t finish. If you are just starting out in the writing game, you are even more likely to start something you can’t finish.

When I blog about a WIP that I later do not finish, it makes me feel I am exposing myself as an amateurish writer. And I don’t want to do that. I have had some writing success, including having my poetry published in a number of periodicals— which would have been more if I had been submitting more regularly. I used to think that talking about a WIP that I’m working on would make me more motivated to finish. Actually, I think it just made me dead-end sooner due to being self-conscious about the project.

Lawrence Block said that he didn’t talk about his WIP before he was done with the first draft. He was afraid that if he talked about it, he would be less motivated to actually write it. He called it ‘leaving your fight in the gym,’ which I think is a boxing metaphor.

The same rule goes for talking about your WIP on your blog or author page or an online forum. Your brain may interpret that talking as you doing the required writing work on that project. And then not give you the writing energy and motivation to make that WIP into something real.

When your WIP is a finished novel out on the market— even if it’s self-published— that is a time to blog about it. Talk about the characters in it or aspects of your worldbuilding. You could even publish the first chapter as a series of blog posts, with your notes about how you did it. But wait until your WIP is finished, please.

Have you ever thought about blogging about your current WIP? Did you ever do it? What were the results?