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Why should I blog?

Blogging allows you to provide your readers with additional content, which is pretty much expected of you in the modern world. It also gives your website good SEO because you are linking back to it and (if you embed the blog onto your website) you are creating dynamic (changing) content for your website.

How do I set up a blog?

Find a blogging platform you like, such as Blogger, WordPress, LiveJournal, TypePad. I recommend WordPress because although Blogger is the most user-friendly blogging platform, WordPress is the most robust. But find what works for you.

Let’s say you choose WordPress. Go to wordpress.com, click sign up, and enter your information. Once you are signed up, you can create a blog. You will want to both customize the look of the blog by choosing themes and widgets for your sidebar and start posting content. (Don’t forget to come up with a plan before you start posting!). After you have about six or seven posts up there, you should start telling people about the blog (If you do so too early, they will visit your blog, see that there’s not much there, and leave).

How should I populate my blog with content?

A good rule of thumb is about 300 words. Don’t forget, use photos, videos, and links to make your posts more engaging. Ask the readers questions, encouraging them to leave comments. Here’s a post on brainstorming ideas. How often you blog is up to you. The trick is to BE CONSISTENT. Look at other people’s blogs, of any topic. This will help you get ideas.

Related links

Author blog – Why do it?

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First of all, book bloggers who review books on blogs are just as legit as book reviewers in magazines, so treat them with the same respect (yes, I know they don’t have to go through the same gatekeepers that magazine and newspaper writers do, but they should be treated professionally).

1. Contact relevant bloggers only. If your book is about shopping, don’t pitch your book to the blog that clearly only ever reviews books on heavy metal. You don’t have to be a subscriber necessarily (though if you are, it’s nice to say that you’re one of their readers), but do have enough of a look at the blog to know whether contacting them is a waste of your time.

The key to finding a reviewer is finding the perfect match. It’s a lot like landing a book deal. You don’t want necessarily just the only publisher who will take your book (tempting as it may be). You want the right publisher. So don’t go pitching to every book blog in existance–they don’t all review your kind of stuff. Pitch the ones that are right for your topic.

Remember also that you’re not just looking for book blogs, but blogs on your topic that might be interested in reviewing your book or even interviewing you or running an excerpt. One way to find blogs by topic other than the typical google search (or searching on Technorati.com) is looking at who’s talking about your topic on Twitter. If they seem to know what they’re talking about regarding your subject, look at their profile and see if they have a website or blog. They may be interested in reviewing your book or posting content from it on their site.

How do you know if these blogs have any readers? Sometimes they will tell you in the sidebar how many people have subscribed to this blog. Other times, comments are enabled, so if there are a lot of comments under each post, there are a lot of readers. A lot of times it works the other way too: no comments means few readers.

2. Unlike some larger book reviewing publications, sending unsolicited copies is a bad idea. Unless you’re using a database, you may not find their mailing addresses anyway. It’s best to send them an email. A personal touch is always nice and increases your chances, but copying-and-pasting your press release is fine if you’re tight on time. If they are interested in the book, either way, they’ll email you back and ask for a review copy. Some blogs even do Q&A, exclusive excerpt, or get original content from the writer.

3. Send the cover image, whether they ask for it or not. Do not send this out in your pitch because often people will not open emails from people they don’t know if it has an attachment. But if they’ve asked for a copy sent to them, feel free to email them a hi-res jepg they can use, because if you don’t, they won’t use a picture, or they’ll copy a low-res one from the internet, or they’ll try to take a picture or scan themselves which don’t always come out looking good. You may also want to include your author photo. Only include an interior image if you have permission to use images from the book as part of the publicity efforts. Don’t forget to include a credit line for author and interior photos.

4. Give them time. If you don’t hear from the blogger a month after you’ve sent the book, email them and say that you’re just checking to make sure they received the book, and if they did not, you can send a replacement. A month is a good time because if you write too soon, the mail might not have delivered it yet. It’s also a long enough time where they may have set it aside, meaning to get to it later, and put it out of mind for a while. A month after shipping, this might be a good reminder and spark a new interest in them to pick up the book. Remember, book bloggers have lots of other books to read, but they also don’t like to be hounded: “Have you read my book yet, are you going to do a review, how about now, or now?” If they say that the have received your book and plan to review it, it might be another three to six months before they do. This is normal and to be expected.

Blog Carnival

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I’ll be upfront. I’m new to this idea. But so far, I think it’s brilliant. The idea is blog carnivals, which you can learn more about at blogcarnival.com.

It works like this. Let’s say that you and Bob both have blogs about oil painting. Bob has decided to host a carnival about different painting techniques. He’s going to call it The Oil Painting Technique Carnival. Over the course of the next month, people who have blog posts about oil painting techniques are going to submit their posts to him. Let’s say you did a post back in June about a new technique that you learned about, and you submit yours to him as well. Bob is going to pick the handful of best posts of the month and put them in a post on his blog. His post will be a bunch of links with some descriptions of why these posts are good. And you can take a sampling of the internet’s best oil painting technique posts by browsing the links Bob has picked out for you. Hopefully your link made the cut! Next month, Bob will do the same thing and pick some new articles that people send his way.

For an example of what a post would look like, here is a carnival edition that someone did about audio. The carnival is about creating audio, whereas the entire blog is about using your software, so the blog doesn’t have to be the same topic as the carnival. The carnival can be a subset of the topic. For example, let’s say you want to create your own carnival now. You’ve got a blog about live music/concerts. Your carnival doesn’t have to be so broad as to ask people for entries about concerts in general. You could ask people for articles about concerts in New York City. Then, each month, you’d ask for more articles about concerts in NYC.

There are also traveling carnivals. Maybe you and Bob team up with Jenn and Phil, who each have their own painting blogs. In March, Bob posted his carnival edition about oil painting techniques. In April, you post another carnival edition about oil painting techniques on your own blog. May, Jenn hosts a carnival edition about oil painting techniques on her painting site. June, Phil does on his.

This is still new to me, but I think it’s absolutely brilliant.

So you’ve made your blog. You have some ideas. But how are you going to be able to blog consistently for months in a row? Here’s some ideas to get you started, but please think beyond this list.

You may want to come up with a schedule or at least a large list of topics to blog on. Or you may want to wing it–write whatever you feel like in the spur of the moment. It depends on what kind of writer you are. But try to give it variety.

  • Post excerpts  from your book, but don’t give your whole book away
  • Include good content that got left on the cutting room floor when your book was edited
  • Interview people in your field
  • Answer questions from your readers on the blog (without corrupting privacy barriers)
  • Post any news or information related to your field
  • Host a contest or give-away
  • Have a weekly gimmick like “Question Friday” where you ask your readers to post answers to questions in the comments
  • Your opinion on something related to your field
  • An insight into the writing/publishing world
  • Any events that you will be or have attended

Remember, you’re not just an expert on your book–you’re an expert in your field.

Example: Literary agent Nathan Bransford’s blog has great variety of posts.

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Very briefly, a blog (short for web log) is a collection of articles that you post online. It orders it so the most recent is always on top. The idea is to get people coming back to your blog regularly. As an author, this is not your personal diary about your cat and your trip to the beach and what you’re making for dinner. You want to stay on the topic of writing and on the topics that relate to your book. Posts do not have to be long and sprawling, and shouldn’t be. 300 words is good. You want to post at a steady rate. Don’t wear yourself out by posting five posts the first week and none the next. Your readers need to know what to expect.

Here is an excellent article on how to manage your time and ideas in blogging: 10 Tips to help you write your blogging butt off (Ink Rebels) *one of my favs*

There is some debate whether it’s better to have your blog on your website or on a separate service. If you decide to go the separate service route, as I have, here are some options:
WordPress.com: Not terribly intuitive but extremely flexible as far as layout. You can make your blog look like anything you want! Once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to use. Free.
Blogger.com: Extremely intuitive and user-friendly. Fairly flexible, but with some layout restrictions. Free.
Livejournal.com: Fairly easy to use, very restricted in terms of layout, but much more community centered than other blogger services. It’s more interactive with other bloggers. Free.
Typepad: I haven’t used it much myself. I think you have to pay for it.
Tumblr: You can only post one piece of media per post (ie. one picture with a caption or one video with caption). Great for visual books with photos to share. Free.

Other Useful Links:
3 Not so obvious things your blog needs (Open Forum)

Oops

I get asked a lot why more traffic isn’t going to the author’s blog. The blog is up, it has a good name, lots of keywords and links, some good content posted, and the author is all ready to become an authority figure on their subject. But why aren’t people coming to the blog, and why aren’t the few that do come returning?

Your blog is not your website! Your website can be stable (not static exactly, but stable at least) with few updates needed to keep people coming back. It’s the number one resource and hub when it comes to all things YOU. Your blog, on the other hand, has to be maintained regularly. You can decide if you want to post daily, twice a week, or weekly, but you have to stick to it. Not just for a few weeks, but keep it up. Of course people aren’t going to return to your blog if it hasn’t been updated in four months. And if they’re not returning to your blog, you’re not establishing yourself as an authority figure, and if you’re not doing that, then you’re not getting your book sold.

This may seem like obvious advice, but I can’t tell you how often I see this mistake. So keep it in mind through the whole six months, year, two years that you’re spending publicizing this book. BLOG REGULARLY!

 

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You might think that the sidebar on your blog is just a place to stick extra information if you have it, but it is a crucial tool for getting your readers orientated. Without the proper information and widgets here, you can lead your readers astray. Here are some things you may want to include in your sidebar.

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About
This comes in two parts: about you and about this blog. You want to keep your personal bio short and sweet. Here’s an article on how to do that. It can include a photo, contact link, and links to your social media profiles like Facebook and Twitter. About this blog should be short and sweet too. Try to tell them in once sentence what they can expect from your blog.

Best Content
These are your “internal links.” Pick the few best blog posts that you have that are either good enough to make readers want to read more or are the posts that explain something important, for instance a short synopsis about your book and where to buy it would be a good post to highlight here. You can change these as time passes.

Categories or Archive
See my sidebar on the left? It has all my posts broken into categories like blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. When you arrive to my blog, you get all of my posts. But if you only wanted to read my posts about Facebook, you could click on Facebook and get all those posts on one page. WordPress allows you to do this. If your blog is more like a diary than something people will want to view in categories, you can have an archive separated by day, month, or year. Blogger.com sets one up for you by default (but you can delete it if you don’t want it). These things allow easy navigation rather than paging through your entire blog one screen at a time.

Blogroll
These are your “external links.” A blogroll is a list of blogs (hyperlinked to be clickable) that you read, preferably ones that your readers will be interested in too. If you have a lot of favorite blogs, you may want to have multiple blogrolls broken into categories like “Book Blogs” and “Cooking Blogs” and “My Friends’ Blogs.”

Widgets and Gadgets
Widgets can be the saving grace or the brutal murder of your sidebar. There are many third-party widgets out there that can do anything from tell you the time, tell you how many people visited your site, show your favorite YouTube videos, display interactive games, provide a search bar, and much more. Make sure that it’s important, that you’re not creating clutter, and that it doesn’t cause your page to load slowly.

Badges
As long as you don’t get carried away, badges are not a bad idea. They provide a simple graphic in the sidebar which is eye-catching. They also show your affiliation to online groups and causes, giving your readers some insight into you and feeling a better connection. It’s also free advertising for your favorite web places.

Subscribe
Make it easy for your fans to subscribe to you by creating an RSS feed. Here’s an article on how to do that on Blogger.com.

Ads
Obviously you don’t have to have ads on your blog. It’s just a nice way to make money. It might even help your SEO. Check out eHow for details.

Useful Links:
Most Popular Blog Sidebar Items (Bash Bosh)
What You Should and Shouldn’t Have on Your Blog’s Sidebar (Social Mouths)
Basic Tips Part 1 and Part 2 (Wayneliew.com)
5 Items Your Blog Sidebar Must Have (Blogging Tips)