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Starting a Blog

Discussion in 'Marketing' started by DragonOfTheAerie, Aug 19, 2016.

  1. So, I really have no idea where this should go. Having a writing blog is a form of marketing, right? Anyway.

    I've been wanting to start a blog (books, reading, writing...topics like that) for several months but I have no idea how to do it. I know many of the people on MS have blogs, so can anyone offer advice?
  2. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    Wordpress has a fairly simple setup and ease of use: WordPress.com: Create a free website or blog

    There are multiple things to consider, such as the level of customization you'd want, having your own domain name, hiring a web designer to create a professional look that is unique to your site—but a lot of those things can be decided later. Wordpress is pretty much the go-to still, I think, for new bloggers just learning the basics of blogging? (It's been some time since I blogged, and I don't know what's changed.) They have a free plan and then different levels of plans depending on which sort of features you want.

    If you plan to use it for a professional site—i.e., marketing—whether immediately or down the road, you'd want to register a domain name, which is rather inexpensive. Using your own domain name also brings an added expense, a subscription plan for Wordpress and/or paying a yearly subscription to a domain service. Securing your own domain under the name you'll use for your writing is a must.

    You can however check out various other web hosts for plans. Many of them also offer an install for Wordpress, and you actually have more control over your site. I used GoDaddy for a long time. But I'm sure you could do a search for web hosts and find many others that would have similar plans. Typically, once you subscribe, they'll install Wordpress for you automatically and you can be up and running very quickly.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2016
    DragonOfTheAerie likes this.
  3. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    To echo FifthView, I use BlueHost. WordPress is part of the bundle, along with many other tools. And there are lots of guides on how to get started, domain name registration included.

    All I will add is that you write, oh, a dozen articles or so right now. They should be fairly short--do your own blog reading and assess about how long a post you will tolerate. I get word counts by copy/pasting into my word processor. For me, the usual range is around 500 to 1000 words--that's roughly three to five pages in a paperback novel. Note I'm talking about upper limits. If an article is brilliant it can be longer, but don't plan on being brilliant every time!

    Anyway, build up your posting backlog. The best articles are one that have no time context, so you can drop one in any time the well runs dry. And it will.

    Of course, you can go another route, the one where you post just whenever you feel like it. That's more like an online personal journal. That's fine. Just don't expect to get a ton of readers. Best is to establish a schedule and keep to it.

    I tried that. I have plenty to write. But I quickly came to regard the blog as a distraction from my fiction writing and gave it up.
  4. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    yeah. I bought my domain names years ago and still don't have a blog.

    I do not want to discourage you from doing a blog, but it can be a big time-suck and the best ones have multiple writers contributing to their content (like the MS home page, where the article team shares the burden).

    If you do decide on a name and format for your blog, I'd recommend sticking to a few interesting subjects, rather than just writing whatever you feel like. I think it's distracting when a blog encompasses too many subjects. By finding a niche, you can capture a certain audience, the kinds of people who will hopefully enjoy your books.

    Consider doing what I did. Make a Facebook page for yourself (here's mine: A. Howitt | Facebook ), write on it once in a while, and post chapters and articles as "notes" for your followers to read.

    The reason I chose to do Facebook was because I hated Wordpress. I don't know how many hours I spent writing articles only to have them disappear or come out all wrong. That sucked. I had a costuming website that I hoped could be a resource for folks who were interested in historical costuming, but I couldn't figure out how to write articles that came out looking like pdfs, with pictures interspersed with text-wrapping. Instead, one photo went at the top of each post, and then a wall of text underneath. What a mess. Wordpress is not as user-friendly as other tools.

    One thing I think is really important for a blog is to look really professional. I've seen tons of shitty blogs that don't have much interesting content and they feel unprofessional, unlike the really good ones like Chuck Wendig's ( Blog « terribleminds: chuck wendig ) and Nathan Bransford's ( Nathan Bransford, Author)

    Skip is right. Time spent blogging is time spent writing material that isn't a story. Have a plan when you set out to do your blog. Each choice you make on what to include or what to talk about will affect followers. They might stop following you, or they might recommend you to their friends.

    The reason I chose Facebook was because it's easy, immediate gratification, and the post lengths are expected to be short. I can post 3-5 Facebook posts a week and spend little time on it, or I can skip a couple weeks and then catch back up later. Links are awesome, self-promotion is simple, and it's easy to get all your friends to "like" your page, especially if you don't waste their time by posting that you're going to have a fish sandwich for lunch, and then go to the mall (OMG, why do people think anyone cares about that stuff?).

    The main reason blogs help writers is that they simply show an agent that you have an online presence and that you care. Basically, when you send a query, an agent will read the letter first. If they like it, they'll read your sample chapters (or maybe just the first few paragraphs or pages). Then, they decide, "yes, this person is a good writer." and they hit google and type in your name. If your name leads nowhere, they might decide that you're a difficult person to take a chance on, because writers are expected to maintain relationships with fans. For established writers, this might mean attending cons and shaking hands and signing books. For no-name writers, it's usually blogs, websites, and Facebook pages. When they click on your Facebook author page, they'll want to see how many followers you have. If it's 30...you're not really establishing an online presence. Which is just a little bit of a red flag. If you have 500 followers...well, that shows that folks like you and may potentially buy your books!

    I guess what I'm trying to say is blog if you want to, but each choice has pros and cons. Make sure you have realistic expectations. Many writers blog about their characters, writing in general, or their book's progress, and it's really hard to get subscribers to those kinds of things unless you're offering something unique. You gotta get folks to care, in other words.

    Facebook was the right fit for me because it took less time. Simply put, I don't want to spend 10-20 hours a week writing and editing articles and formatting posts for a blog, when that time could be spent on my books. Facebook takes 10-20 minutes. That, I'm fine with. And when I have articles worth writing, I post them here, on MS. Now that I have a dozen or so articles written, I can save them (usually, I link them to my Facebook author's page, a few times a year, when I think of it) and put them up on my website (whenever it feels like the right time to actually go back to a site and an infrequent blog).

    My way certainly isn't the only way, but I'm rather particular in some circumstances. I won't publish a novel before I'm really "ready" and feel like I'm indeed putting my best foot forward. Just like I'd rather have a good Facebook page than a blog that looks lame, with content that isn't my best work, and the feeling hanging over my head that no one's reading it anyways. Folks respond to my Facebook posts regularly, and it's a lot of fun. I've heard Twitter is a really good way to maintain relationships with fans too, but I'm a Twitter dumbs, and I'm only following three people (agents I love).

    Oh, and one more thing about my old blog. Loads of comments are just spam. It takes time to sift through those, too. Some people genuinely find your blog in a search and comment for real. I had a high percentage of comments that were: I like your blog. Have you seen this? (like to work-at-home site/ penis enlargement/ sexy Russian brides/ etc..

    In fact, that reminds me, I need to get Black Dragon to take down my website information and replace it with my Facebook author page, because when you click the link on my articles, it takes you to a single page with my photo on it, where I'm wearing a dress from 1776 and talking about how I'm a costumer. Lame-o.

    Best wishes! If you have a friend who does websites, you may want to ask for some help getting started with Wordpress. Learn how to use it and see what's possible. It helps to have an example to take to the friend, so you can say, "I really love this blog. Can you set me up with something like this?" Of course, I'm only mentioning things that are free. If you want a really good site, you can hire someone on Elance or another "for hire" site where you can get the work done cheaper than average price, but not dirt cheap, I suppose.

    I hope my thoughts helped you in some way. If you do want to build a Facebook author page, I'm happy to help you get some ideas for what kind of content to post. I have three Facebook pages, one for each business I'm currently in. Costumes, Real Estate, and writing. The Real Estate one's horribly sparse on content, because I struggle to know what to post on that one. The others are more journals and building a community with friends and whomever they recommend to my pages.

    Okay, best wishes as you do some more research on blogging. Wish I could have been more helpful!
  5. My plan is to blog about writing and reading, pretty much. Review some books (post to Goodreads as well). Maybe post snippets I write. Write about being a writer and a book nerd. If I want to reach an audience by blogging, my audience is, in broadest terms, people who love books. I've been writing down blog post topics for a while and i have quite a list.

    I've been needing a FB writer page for a while, but I haven't done it because I thought "not until I have a blog..." Because I want to share my blog posts on it. I also keep a list of random snarky comments I want to put on my page, lol.

    It's not that I want to blog just because I like the idea of blogging, though. It's that I actually do have things to say, and I want to express them somehow, and blogging seems like a good way to do it.
  6. I've heard generally good things about WordPress, but I am the most technologically incompetent person ever
  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    FWIW, setting up a WordPress for me was dead simple. It was literally an option I chose. *However* that was an option on a cPanel provided by my hosting service, an interface that requires some patience to learn. There is tech support to help, but they really only help with the tech, not with actually understanding.

    Then there are the comments. If you allow comments, now you also have to add a spam filter.

    In other words, it can be a bit of a tar baby. Easy to pick up, but has a tendency to keep getting stickier. Best if you have a tech buddy who can get you unstuck.
  8. Peat

    Peat Sage

    I use Blogger. A dead mouse could set up a blog on Blogger.

    My advice would be: Only Blog if you enjoy blogging.

    I think it is a good promotional tool for a writer. If you write a good blog post, people will share it on social media, maybe a couple of new people click and then go and buy a book. If you're doing that every week, slowly but surely that builds into something. Is that the most effective promotional tool however?

    There are other things you can do with a blog. People like knowing about the authors they buy from. They like to see flashes of your life, they like to see you talk about your books and respond to reader questions. A blog allows that. A blog sells The Best You as an author to buy from. Also, regular content attached to your name pushes you up the search rankings. Most effective promotional tool?

    Probably not, not unless you're an outstanding blogger. It is a decent one though and, crucially, if you enjoy blogging anyway, one that costs you nothing.

    If you don't enjoy blogging then you probably won't have have a good blog at which point you gain very little.

    Also, depending on whether you enjoy blogging or not, is whether the point about blogging taking up writing time needs refutation. Don't know about anyone else, but I can't work on fiction non-stop. My brain's not wired that way. Writing blogs is writing I can do when not in the mood for fiction that allows me to practice my writing and pimp my fiction. Its not a competitor, its a collaborator. For someone who doesn't enjoy blogging, I'm guessing it will be a competitor.

    Incidentally, a lot of Facebook content goes unseen these days. This article on falling reach for publishers covers some of it. You have a blog, someone subscribes to it, they see *everything*. Well. Assuming they check their emails. Facebook's good for getting people to pay attention to you, but its not what I'd use for keeping that attention from what I see.
  9. KC Trae Becker

    KC Trae Becker Troubadour

    I second the ease of Blogger. I tried WordPress after using Blogger for a while just to compare them, since I had heard such good reports. I didn't like it. Maybe the experience would have been different if I switched the order, but I doubt it. I didn't use it a lot, it seemed counter intuitive, but I had a few things posted. Then my password was locked out when I switched computers.

    Blogger has goggle communities that it is very easy to share your posts with, a great way to generate traffic.

    I currently blog sporadically. I was regular for the first two years and have content that still generates daily views, nothing stellar. But people are still interested.

    I mostly just blog about my research topics. I read a lot of books on mythology and folklore, science and teaching that dovetail with some of my amateur photography. It's mostly just for fun at this point since my time is limited. But it's there for people to check out and for me to pick up again when my life frees up a little.
  10. Jordan R Murray

    Jordan R Murray Acolyte

    I found this thread insightful, and wondered if you would give us an update? Did you end up deciding on a blog?
  11. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

    Since this thread has popped up again, I'll give my opinion.

    If you only want to blog and don't care about having any special effects, layout, etc., either Blogger or WordPress.com will do.

    If you want your own domain name, I'd recommend paying for a web host that will support the WordPress.org version of WordPress, which allows you to activate all sorts of plugins, including some that will block spam, help with SEO (for showing up better in search engines), recommend related articles on other sites that you can link to (which can help bring traffic from them), and more. WordPress.org sites don't even have to be blogs. They can be set up as full-fledged sites, with categorized menus pointing to different pages, which can be updated when you want, and more pages added when you want, similar to posts. You can mix pages and posts on a site, so that you have a hybrid paged-site and blog.

    With WordPress (by which I mean WordPress.org, as I haven't looked at WordPress.com in a while), you can include your own CSS, which lets you style your pages/posts beyond what is allowed in the theme. So if you want some images to be wrapped by text, you can assign a CSS class to it and doctor your CSS accordingly. Yes, you have to know CSS for that, but once you learn what you need, it's easy to do thereafter.

    It's also nice to install Google Analytics on your site. This can be done with WordPress.org sites. Not sure about Blogger or WordPress.com.

    Some web hosts allow you to set up multiple domains on one hosting account. I know BlueHost allows this. So you could have a personal blog/site on one domain and a writing blog/site on a separate domain. It's like having multiple accounts, but you only pay for one. Of course, you have to pay the yearly fee for the additional domain name. Once I publish my debut novel, I plan to keep my personal site as it is now, and set up another domain/site specifically for the book series, with links between the two domains to help drive traffic.

    It all comes down to what you're comfortable with or are willing to learn. I don't do well with Facebook. I have many more followers on Twitter, though I don't tweet as often as many people. I'm also on Google+, but I'm least active there. I have my WordPress set up to automatically post to Twitter, Google+ and my Facebook page when a post goes live on WordPress. I also have it set up so that visitors can easily post links to my pages/posts by clicking buttons, and some of my fans do this, which helps drive traffic.

    On my WordPress site I have some "evergreen" online tools that are getting hits every week. These tools draw visitors in, and they sometimes check out other posts/pages on my site.

    I don't have tons of visitor comments on my pages/posts on my WordPress site, but I do have traffic. It's important to look at your stats rather than gauging your success by the number of comments.
    DragonOfTheAerie and Russ like this.
  12. Whoops, someone posted on my thread and I didn't notice.

    And...not yet, but I'm planning it out. Topics and what not.
  13. I suck at anything technology related, I'm still a very old-fashioned kinda girl, so...whatever's easiest to learn...

    I want a facebook page too.

    Opinions on reviewing my favorite books (that are really similar to stuff I write?) Seems to me like a good way to find the right audience.
    Michael K. Eidson likes this.
  14. La Volpe

    La Volpe Sage

    I think the stuff like Wordpress and Blogger are designed for technologically-inept people, so it should be fine. Plus, there's always tutorials on the internet.

    I used to have a Blogspot blog, which was easy to set up and use (however, I'm pretty handy with computers and the like, so your mileage may vary). But I had the same issue as Skip. Eventually I was just blogging instead of writing, so I stopped blogging.

    As a side note, the content will be of importance depending on what kind of audience you're writing for. Specifically, you're not going to get much of a platform for selling your books (or marketing them or whatever) by blogging about writing. The majority of readers are not writers, so it's not that helpful to niche your market into only writing. But from what you've said, your content should be interesting to readers and writers alike. But just keep this in mind.

    But besides that, good luck and enjoy the ride.
  15. I plan to mostly blog on books, booknerdy stuff, maybe post writing samples. Still figuring it out, but I've been thinking about this.
  16. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    I blog in bursts. Sometimes several posts a week, sometimes several weeks between posts. I mainly post about things I make, like my writing and my mix-sets and playlists, but sometimes about other things I do. When I started out I didn't have much idea of what exactly I wanted the blog to be about, and I'm not sure I still do.

    I do have a better feel for what kind of thing I post though: It's a lot about my personal experiences of doing the things I do. Like how I feel about things happening in my stories, or about how a particular character is developing. It's fairly laid back and not very serious, but it doesn't have to be.

    In fact, now that I think about it, I'm not sure I want it to be very serious. I'm not that kind of person and I want the blog to be a reflection of me and what I do - personal. Now, it's not deeply personal, but I still try to be honest about who I am and what I do so that readers can feel I'm a person behind the words and I'm not just trying to pose as something I'm not.

    As for traffic...
    I get between none and three views on an average day, usually with more on a day I post something new.

    I use wordpress and the blog is hosted on their end which is free, but I've bought a domain of my own to have a nicer website address (although I guess that's debatable). Setting the blog up was easy. I used to be really into computers when I was a kid so I have some experience, but I've lost interest since and I'm not up to date. It was plenty enough to start a blog, pick a theme, and start typing. It's really very simple.
  17. I'm thinking of using a blog to review/recommend books I like. I think it could be a way of gaining readership, but I'm not sure about it.

    I wouldn't be dissing books I hate; only writing about books I like. Not only that, but books that are similar to my own. So...

    I'm also meditating on getting a Facebook page. And how these two things could possibly connect to my Goodreads account.

    I want to get started on *something...* aaaaahhh. It's a little overwhelming to consider everything.

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