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Friday, June 6, 2008

Killer Campaigns: Blogs

There are many reasons to blog and many styles of blogging. Some people can write solely on their day to day lives and have a legion of fans. Others can't get noticed if they had bloodhounds after them. The reasons are as varied as the individual.

For the purposes of this post, we are going to talk about blogging as a promotional vehicle for your writing career. What are your options? Who is your audience?

When blogs made their debut a few short years ago, I didn't pay them any mind. The first blogs I noticed were more like very public personal diaries. It was: what the kids did, what someone had for lunch, or at best, how many words they wrote that day.

Clearly, this was personal information that wouldn't (and shouldn't) be of any interest to an agent, editor or publisher.

I designed my blog specifically with the writing community in mind. It is for this reason I stick to providing markets, news and tips. Occasionally, I tell funny stories because I think it has entertainment value and God knows, it's good fodder for fiction.

Other bloggers have made seriously lucrative careers out of spilling their guts and telling every juicy detail about their lives. I find such bloggers generally crass and not worthy of attention, but society loves a train wreck and these sites get tons of traffic for playing drama queens.

It's a judgment call. If you're comfortable baring your all, and you have an enticing voice, advertisers will pay big money to be on your blog.

But let's assume you are a normal blogger looking to benefit his career without getting nekkid.

As I mentioned earlier, I use mine as a way to reach other writers, but you could just as easily create a blog for your fans. The only difference between us is that you will be using some of the elements from my previous post on websites and using them on your blog.

Knowing who you want as your audience is critical. If it's just a diary to keep your friends up to date on your personal life, LiveJournal, Facebook and MySpace do the job well. I've tried LJ and MySpace and that's about all I can recommend them for. These are social networks. They were created specifically to network in a casual atmosphere with the "friending" model.

If you want a place to introduce potential fans to your work, consider WordPress, TypePad or Blogger. I would love to have my blog on WordPress because it offers so many useful add-ons, but Blogger has the benefit of being part of the Google family. It comes up in searches faster, providing me with more traffic. It's an acceptable tradeoff.

So how do we go about making our blogs work for us?

Content is king. What are you going to talk about? Remember that it has to be of interest to the audience you are trying to reach and your scope can be as narrow or wide as you want it to be.

If your audience is:

Just Friends: The sky and your prudence is the limit.

Fans: Talk about your books, other people's books, your research, your background, your appearances. Keep the dialog open. You want to be as interactive as possible and the content has to change regularly so they keep coming back. You have the luxury of including a lot of fun stuff like games, contests and downloads.

Peers: Anything that is writing related is fair game. Think about the things you'd like to know and then teach yourself to become an authority. Some blogs on my list focus on specific aspects of publishing like: breaking news, agents, editing, markets, freelancing, marketing, conferences, workshops, research, debut authors, specific genres. There is a wide and wonderful smorgasbord of choices. These are my very favorite kinds of blogs. Almost all of them focus on a particular strength, but they also talk about other stuff. It's a nice mix.

Frequency: Blogs should be updated on a consistent schedule. Regular posts are the surest way to earn return visitors.

On the flipside, I'm not sure posting several times a day is advantageous unless you have late breaking news. Lots of tiny announcements of little import sometimes diminishes your impact.

Voice: Blogs have voices. Did you know that? Develop a voice that brings people back. One thing I did back when I created my first website is practice my blog voice. I didn't have much traffic then so any sins I committed are lost to the ether.

If you want to practice, create an anonymous blog and post for a few months until you feel comfortable.

Appearance: Never "diss" other writers, agents, editors and publishing houses on your blog. If you keep getting rejected, don't rant about the injustice. If you're angry or depressed, you are better off keeping that information between you and your buds. Your friends will understand, but strangers will just think something is wrong with you. This isn't high school. Respect yourself and respect your audience.

Tit for tat: Visit other blogs and comment. The more often you comment, the higher your PageRank on Google goes up. The same goes for linking. Every time you link to someone else's blog, website or page, it enhances your standing. The more important the link is, the better you look too.

Linking regularly and commenting are probably the two easiest and most reliable ways to build traffic.

That said, there is an etiquette to linking. If someone asks to be linked on your page, they in turn must link you.

Blogging can be a useful promotional tool, but it can also be misused to fritter away your time and scratch an itch. It's all up to you.

How do you like to use your blogs? What would you like to do differently? What's given you the most pleasure or success in blogging?

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Tia Nevitt said...

My Fantasy Debut anniversary is tomorrow! I was going to celebrate by posting a Ten Commandments of Blogging that I wrote way back when in January. Some of my commandments look like some of your suggestions, so I guess it's just common sense.

Maria Zannini said...

Hey, congrats, Tia! I think you've done a phenomenal job with Fantasy Debut. You go, woman!

Ref: common sense
Isn't that true of most things? :o)
Sometimes the facts are right in front of us.