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Anne R. Allen's Blog


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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, January 20, 2013

5 Blogging Rules Authors Can Ignore…and 5 You Can’t

Do all aspiring authors need to blog?

The answer used to be: Only the ones who want to get published.

Now, agents and publishers are letting up on the requirement.

Recently, agent Rachelle Gardner changed her stance on blogs.“A few years ago, the standard wisdom was that authors, both fiction and non-fiction, should have blogs in order to gather an audience and build relationships with readers. Now, not so much. As social media and online marketing have evolved, my thoughts on blogging have changed. I think each author needs to carefully consider whether blogging is an appropriate vehicle for them.”

But she added that you need to be on social media somewhere. She says Goodreads, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or Google +  can help you establish yourself if you find blogging too daunting.

But if you’re a Boomer like me, you may find those other platforms MORE daunting. For the non-tech-savvy, blogging is the easiest to master. It’s also the social media platform that gives you the most control.

This week social media guru diva Kristen Lamb devoted a whole week of blogposts to explaining the reasons why “blogs are probably THE BEST use of an author’s time when it comes to building an author platform using social media.”

But some writers start to blog too early in their careers and find it’s a time suck that keeps them from their primary writing goals.

So when should you start blogging? I don't think you have to worry about blogging if—

  • You’re at a stage where you need to put 100% of your writing time into learning your craft and getting that WIP onto the page.  
  • You’re a student who loves your creative writing class and hopes to be a writer someday, but you’re not sure what genre you’ll want to write or if you'll want to write novels, screenplays, poetry or whatever..
  • You’ve written a NaNo novel and a few short stories but you know you've got a lot to learn and you're not ready to start submitting things yet. 
  • You’ve been to a few writers conferences and you’re working madly on edits on your first novel and you’ve got this new idea you’re just dying to get on paper...

That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with blogging if you’re at any of those stages. For some of us, blogging is fun. Having fun with words is good at any stage of your writing career, as long as it doesn't keep you from your primary writing goals.

But don’t feel pressured to jump in yet. Blogging is a commitment. Don’t start if you don’t have the time or discipline to follow through.

When should you definitely think about a blog? When you’re sending out queries or getting ready to self-publish.

You will need a website anyway. (Sending out a query when you don’t have a website is shooting yourself in the font. Many agents and editors reject on that item alone.) A blog is a website—while a Facebook, Google +, Twitter or Pinterest page is not. Nothing that requires membership counts. And a blog hosted by Blogger or Wordpress is free as well as being interactive—as opposed to a static website. So it counts as “social media.” It’s a two-bird stone.

I agree with Kristen Lamb. I think blogging provides the most effective long-term strategy for writers to get their names out there into the marketplace and interact with the public.Why?
  • You’re a writer. Blogging uses a skill you’ve already got: putting words together to make sentences. 
  • Other social media are subject to faddism and rapid changes. (Facebook has become much less effective now that you have to pay to reach more than a handful of readers. Other social media sites may follow suit.) 
  • Blogging is the social medium that gives YOU the most control over your brand.
But blogger-authors usually make one huge mistake: we follow rules established by other types of bloggers.

I made this mistake myself. Thing is: as an author, you are not blogging to monetize, so a lot of those rules don’t apply. You're blogging to make yourself an interactive home on the Web—a place for agents/fellow writers/fellow bloggers/publishers/editors/readers to find you and communicate with you. It's a place to establish your brand.

And your brand is YOU.

This means:

1) You don’t have to blog every day.

Or even every week. Or on a schedule. (Although a schedule will give you a better chance of building a readership.) But it’s all good. For more on this, read my post on The Slow Blog Manifesto.

2) You don’t have to keep to 300-500 words.

Make your post as long as it needs to be to cover the subject. If you go over 3000 words, you’ll probably lose some readers, but Porter Anderson writes more than that in every one of his posts at Writing on the Ether and he's one of the most respected bloggers in the business

3) You don’t want a cutsie title that masks your identity.

The number one reason for an author to have a blog is to get name recognition, so for heaven’s sake, PUT YOUR NAME ON THE BLOG. I know I hammer away at this, but still 70% of the writing blogs I visit don’t have the author's name in the header—and almost that many don’t have an “about me” bio page to give us any idea of who heck they are.

The reason you’re blogging is the opposite of anonymity. You want people to be able to put your name (or pen name) into a search engine find you. Don’t make them rummage in their memory banks trying to remember if your blog is called “Songs from the Zombiepocalypse”, “Lost Marbles” or “MommiePornCentral". A whole lot more people will find you if they can just Google "Your Name."

Every minute you spend blogging anonymously is a minute wasted. Let the public know who you are and where you are and why we should be reading your stuff instead of the other 10 billion blogs out there.

And ALWAYS put your contact information prominently on the blog. If you’re selling a product, it’s just plain dumb not to tell people where to find it.

4) You don’t have to blog about any one subject. Your product is YOU.

For a long time, I believed all the stuff about how you have to have a niche. So this is a niche blog. It's serving us well, but it hems us in. We may try branching out into other territory in the coming months. Notice the new "Opportunity Alerts" at the end of the post.

Remember people surf the Web looking for two things: information and entertainment. Your blog can spin a good yarn, make people laugh, provide information, or all three, as long as you are putting it all out in your own honest, unique voice. (But I generally advise against fictional yarns—see below.)

A great example of a highly successful blogger is Nina Badzin, who blogs about books, parenting, religion, career choices, and so much more. Her posts are engaging and charming and often get picked up by the Huffington Post. Why? She’s smart, funny, honest, and totally herself.

One caveat: one of the least interesting topics to readers is your writing process. Hardly any potential reader wants to know your daily word count or your rejection sorrows. Other writers may stop by to commiserate, and you do want to network with other authors, but don’t make your writer’s block or attempts to get published the main focus of your blog.

You’re a writer, so they want your well-written observations on things: your unique voice talking about the things you feel passionate about. The research you’re doing on medieval armor. Your theories on why raccoons are going to take over the planet. The hilarious adventures of an erotica writer/PTA president.

NOTE: If you’re not a published author writing for an established fan base, DO NOT post bits of your WIP hoping to get praise or critique. That’s because:
  • You’re blogging to GIVE entertainment and information, not GET praise or free editing.
  • If you’re not published, that book can never be sold, because you have given away “first rights.”
5) You don’t need a lot of images.

Don’t waste lots of time looking for the right photo (or risk getting sued for using copyrighted material.) If your blog is about travel, or fishing, or antiquing, yes, take lots of photos, but if the post is about books or ideas—don’t sweat it. You’re a WRITER. The blog is going to be a showcase for what you can do with the written word. We’ve never used images on this blog, and we’re doing pretty well.

If you do use images, make sure they are in the public domain. Try Wiki Commons or WANA Commons

But there are some blogging rules you'd be wise to heed:

1) Learn to write good headers. A “good” header does a number of things:
  • Asks a question or provides an answer. 
  • Attracts search engines. 
  • Makes a good Tweet (even if you aren’t on Twitter, you want somebody else to tweet it and spread the word.) 
  • Promises the reader something of value: information or entertainment 
Note: One-word and enigmatic titles may delight your muse, but minimalism won’t attract blog readers. Also stuff that’s unfocused, doesn’t inform, and nobody’s likely to Google.

Titles like “Scribbles”, “Alone,” or “Sad Thoughts” are not going to get you many hits. These are not words or phrases people are likely to search for, and they don't entice or offer anything. Look at the titles of our top ten blogposts for ideas on what works in a blog header. Numbered lists and questions work best.

2) Always include share buttons Those little "f" "t", "g +1" and other buttons that allow people to share your brilliant words to their Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts are the way you will build a following. Put them up there even if you personally don’t use that kind of social media.

3) Always post a bio and contact info—and your @twitterhandle, if you have one. Also include a way for people to follow the blog as a “follower” or by email and rss feed. (All this stuff is available in your "gadgets" menu on your dashboard if you use Blogger.)

4) Remember social media is SOCIAL. Be welcoming to your visitors and visit other blogs. Respond to comments. Make commenting as easy as possible. You can’t control all the Blogger/Wordpress hoop-jumping, but if you haven’t had a barrage of spam, you can turn off the “word verification” or “CAPTCHA”. That will triple your comments. (Especially from people with older eyes who can’t read those %&*! letters to save our lives.)

And don't neglect your neighbors. Nobody’s going to know you’re there if you stay home all the time. Get out and visit. Social media is about networking. Choose a few high profile blogs to visit regularly and notice whose comments interest you. Go to their blogs. Eventually you’ll make some friends. Who knows—it could be a potential collaborator, blog partner, or somebody who’ll recommend you to a publisher or agent. Or just a great friend who can support you through the tough times.

5) Learn to write 21st century prose. People skim on the Internet. You need short paragraphs, bullet points, lists, bolding, and lots of white space. Draw the reader's eye through the piece.

What about you, Scriveners? Do you have a blog yet? When did you start to blog? Can you think of any other “conventional blogger wisdom” that’s not true for author-bloggers? 

We have 5 Opportunity Alerts this week:

#1 Tech-Savvy Author Workshop: If you live on the Central Coast of California and you’re interested in learning more about blogging, building platform and everything a 21st Century author needs to know, I’ll be teaching at a seminar called THE TECH SAVVY AUTHOR with Catherine Ryan Hyde, screenwriter and radio personality Dave Congalton and a whole crew of smart techie folks on March 2nd.

#2 Interested in having your short fiction on a weekly podcast? There’s no pay, but it’s fantastic publicity if your story is accepted by SMOKE AND MIRRORS. They broadcast about three stories a week. Spooky, dark tales preferred. No previous publication necessary. They judge on the story alone.

#3 Cash prizes for flash fiction. The San Luis Obispo NIGHTWRITERS are holding their annual 500-word story contest. Anybody from anywhere in the world is welcome to enter. Prizes are $200, $150 and $75. This is a fantastic organization that boasts a number of bestselling authors among their members, including Jay Asher, Jeff Carlson, and moi. (Well, some sell better than others :-) ) Deadline is March 31st.

#4 Want to find out about the latest ebooks? TODAY'S E-READER BUZZ is a new way to read about the latest releases. When you subscribe, you could win a gift card or a copy of my new Camilla mystery, No Place Like Home. 

#5 A Blog for the Multi-Talented. An interactive blog for your photos and stories. Different themes each month. STORIED IMPRESSIONS. In intriguing new blog from Gretchen Fogelstrom. (although I've told her she needs to make her name bigger!)

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Blogger John H. Carroll said...

Great article. I don't follow all the rules, but I do follow most. I need to take time to figure out how to add a page for my author bio. *sigh*

January 20, 2013 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Hey, I think I'm doing it right!
I didn't start blogging until a year before my first book came out. My publisher said get my butt online, and blogging killed two birds with one stone. I lot of writers blog about writing, but that's just not my thing. (Really, you don't want writing tips from me.) But I found my niche and really enjoy it. Not the usual author blog, but it works for me!

January 20, 2013 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger GillyF said...

Excellent blog with some really pertinent and thought-provoking points. I shall read again and allow the suggestions to simmer...

At the risk of being really cheeky though - can't help asking - did you really mean to say 'sending out a query when you don't have a website is like shooting yourself in the FONT?' That's either a fab Freudian slip or an ace new phrase - respect either way!

January 20, 2013 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger Vera Soroka said...

I like blogging and have been posting every Friday since I started putting my stories up. I think my small readership keeps me doing this which is good.
I do have a livejournal but I use it more for journal writing and I should make it private but I haven't yet. I like journal writing by hand and I do it every day in my notebook.
I follow a lot of YA authors and some of them have let their blogs go by the way side. Some are there only occasionally. They seem to like their twitter as it's faster and some have Tumblr which is one that I kind of like. I would pick it over facebook which I don't like.

January 20, 2013 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Anne—Thoughtful & informative. As usual!

I love the Opportunity Alerts feature. Brilliant.

The tip about writing 21st C prose is excellent. Also applies IMO to our actual books. Should be shorter, paced quicker, get to the point sooner. I think (JMO) that people are reading in a different way these days—in quicker spurts with shorter attention-spans—so it's important to revise our prose to appeal to them.

January 20, 2013 at 11:15 AM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

Another fine post.
I've been blogging for a year & a half now. I enjoy the research & the composition elements a good 50% of the time, which seems like good odds to me. I don't have a huge following, but I do have a few stalwarts.

Special thanks for posting the opportunities. Fellow followers, if the Smoke & Mirrors opportunity sounds attractive at all, go for it. Dennis is a pro who will treat your story with respect & class.

January 20, 2013 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger Mia Hayson said...

Great post.

I mostly blog to keep myself happy now, to be honest. I like connecting with people, and sharing enthusiasm for things, so that I can write and be happy about writing all the time!

I used (at some point) to blog really regularly but lately I've realised that's just not for me. It's daunting — and sometimes crushing — when you start writing for other people and not yourself. And I think that's what I started to do last year. The posts dwindled as did my enthusiasm! So I think the lesson from my long ramble is that blogging for myself keeps me happy, lets me have a little break from things now and then, and is a place to put things on the internet. All of which are reasons to blog maybe. :)


January 20, 2013 at 11:31 AM  
Blogger Gretchen Fogelstrom said...

Anne - thanks for the shout out for my new blog: Storied Impressions!

Your blog today was fabulous and gave me much food for thought. I have already added my name in a few places in my blog - thanks for the tip!

Looking forward to reading your blog weekly. Thanks! ~ Gretchen Fogelstrom

January 20, 2013 at 11:33 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

John--If you have Blogger, go to your dashboard (through the "design" button on your toolbar.) In the list on the left, you'll find "pages". Click on that, then "new page" and it's there. I think we have 20 pages on a free blog.

Alex--Indeed. You not only "do it right" but I've learned a lot of these "rules" from you. You have an ideal author blog.

Gilly--I stole that expression from the late, great Miss Snark, who talked about all the "nitwit" ways queriers "shoot themselves in the font" when trying to get an agent.

Vera--You're right that a lot of YA authors have found their audience is on Tumblr and Pinterest and doesn't have the attention span to read a blog. I think a blog helps even a YA author, but you may need to be on those other platforms, too. Probably not Facebook. That's more for grandmas with photos of the grandkids these days.

Ruth--You're so right that 21st century prose is necessary everywhere. I find that on my Kindle, I tend to skim more. Something about clicking to the next page and getting that "percentage" left of the book to go down gets me speed-reading. I read paper books at a much slower rate, but even so, I do not want an author to draw things out.I'm a lot less patient than I used to be.

January 20, 2013 at 11:34 AM  
Blogger Corey Feldman said...

If you want to build and audience I do think regular blogging is necessary. When I went from sporadic blogging to my readership increased exponentially.

January 20, 2013 at 11:50 AM  
Blogger Jane Bloomfield said...

This is the best post I've read about blogging in a while. I enjoy writing my would-be-columnist blog. But wonder if it complements my children's fiction writing?

January 20, 2013 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger fOIS In The City said...

Anne, love, love, love this so much. It says what I really feel about blogging. First and foremost, I enjoy it and have a good time giving my readers a glimpse of me and my city.

I think that liking it sihnes through with your posts and makes it seem less like a job. To me twitter is a job on Madison Avenue where I need to spend all day inventing cute one liners. The blog affords the time and space to get into a topic ... sites in NYC on mine ... the new feature links well and I also enjoy visiting other blogs and commenting on their posts.

I think you mentioned one of Kristen's big tips. USE TAGS and each time you post one of those tags should be your own name :)

January 20, 2013 at 1:00 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

CS--Thanks for the tip about Smoke and Mirrors. I've had them record one of my own stories and it was a kick to hear it on podcast radio.

Mia--I think there are as many ways to blog as there are bloggers. The most important thing is to do what keeps you blogging. You may not have a huge readership, and readers will change as your career grows and evolves.

Gretchen--Best of luck with STORIED IMPRESSIONS!

Corey--Thanks for backing up my advice that a schedule helps build readership. If they know when to expect you, they'll stop by. Otherwise, they'll get bored with finding the same post, and never come back.

Jane--Children's writers face a dilemma. Kids don't read blogs. So what you need to do is interest their parents, teachers and librarians. So if your "columnist" approach reaches them you're doing it right.

Fois--Like Alex, yours is a great example of a successful author blog. Even though you're not published yet, you've built a great audience with your unique style and your fantastic subject, New York City.

January 20, 2013 at 1:43 PM  
OpenID villagedrummerfiction said...

Anne, This is a great post. I have been struggling to figure out what I should be doing with my blog. I was so glad to read that we don't have to blog on a regular schedule. That is my goal, but too often writing my novels gets in the way; and I love writing the novels the most. I also love the hint about adding share buttons for social hubs that I don't personally have a presence on. I had not thought about where my fans may want to spread the word. I'm going to rectify that right away.
Thank you for sharing such valuable information.
Richard Alan

January 20, 2013 at 2:08 PM  
Blogger Vickie said...

Anne...thanks for a well-timed blog. Were you reading my mind? I was just mulling over whether to expand on my "niche" earlier today. Well, now I have my answer thanks to you. I always do a knee jerk reaction when the suggestion of having a catchy title comes up. How do I know if it's catchy? I looked for your "Top 10 Blogs" but can't seem to find it. Can you help so that I can get some idea? Many thanks for your blog today!

January 20, 2013 at 2:46 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

I started blogging because everyone said to do it and I made the mistake initially trying to blog only about writing. I have since found it easier to mix it up with personal stuff too.

My blog title does not include my name so I will have to revisit that.

Thanks so much for your great posts! You and Ruth are always very informative!

January 20, 2013 at 2:59 PM  
Blogger Tracy Campbell said...

Hi Anne,
You've written another informative post.

Like some of the other comments that were left, I too started blogging too early, and blogged about writing tips.

In hindsight, I'm not sorry I did.

(a) I didn't have many followers who read my stuff anyway, but it forced me to write on a consistent basis.

(b) It gave me the confidence to forge ahead where I created a self-hosted wordpress blog, and phew, I'm glad I used my own name.

Your comments about Facebook intrigued me, in that, I'm not on Facebook and don't really want to be. I'm sitting on the fence at the moment.

Thanks for promoting Nina Badzin's blog. I hopped on over and signed up to follow her.

And I'm so glad you keep reiterating that it's not necessary to blog often. Yay!
Once a week is enough for me.


January 20, 2013 at 3:20 PM  
Blogger Julie Luek said...

Helpful post. I've been reading a lot of Rachelle's posts on this subject too. Lots of opinions out there, for sure. I'm making a few of these adjustments this year and hoping to spend more time discovering my writing niche and less time writing about, well, writing!

January 20, 2013 at 3:28 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Richard--You don't have to blog regularly, but it will help you to get a regular following. Try writing a bunch of blogposts and save them up. Also, if you're diving into a novel and taking a long hiatus, it's nice to let your readers know.

Vickie--Actually it's called "Popular Blogposts", not "Top Ten" There are ten of them, but I got the name wrong. Just move over to the right. They're all in the sidebar on this page, under the "subscribe to" windows.

Melissa--It's easy to add your name and you don't have to change the url. Just put "Melissa ____'s WhateverYourBlogNameIs."

Tracy--Any time spent writing is good practice, as is keeping to a schedule, and I'll bet you made some great writing friends, so you weren't really blogging "too early", but it sounds as if you'll be blogging more effectively now.

I think Facebook has peaked. it's definitely for an older demographic. Unless you already have a following there, I don't think you need to do it. Some authors find a lot of their fans are there, but I haven't had that experience. Some people say Google + will be more important in the next few years.

Julie--We all start by writing about writing because, well, that's what we see everybody else doing. And there's nothing wrong with it. It's a great way to make friends. But unless you're selling a book for writers like my HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE, you need to branch out a bit. You won't know what works until you play with it a while.

January 20, 2013 at 3:45 PM  
Blogger Tracy Campbell said...

Anne, I really appreciate the time you take to respond and for relieving my anxiety about getting on Facebook. I'm currently on LinkedIn and I'm finding the information I glean is valuable, and the groups are quite helpful.
Have a lovely week.
Tracy :-)

January 20, 2013 at 3:50 PM  
Blogger Jay Verney said...

Hi Anne,
Thanks for this post, and all of them actually - they really hit the spot.
I'm interested in point 4 of the rules you can ignore section, where you counsel not to post WIP excerpts because 'if you're not published, that book can never be sold, because you have given away 'first rights.' I'm wondering how that sits with the writers who blog their books. Nina Amir is a leading light in this area. Could you perhaps comment further on the 'first rights' issue and how it applies?
Jay Verney

January 20, 2013 at 4:43 PM  
Blogger Veronice Ceccarelli said...

For myself, not only did I never take any notice of rules, I didn't know there were any - just that I thought there should be a web-page about my books. (I detest the word 'blog.' It is ugly on the ear.)

But your comment that really rang a chord with me is the piece about “word verification” or “CAPTCHA”. I don't know how many times I've had two or three goes to prove I'm not a robot, and there have been a few times I just gave up. Maybe I am a robot.

January 20, 2013 at 5:00 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tracy--LinkedIn is a social medium most people ignore, but I see a lot of writerly activity there. Unfortunately, like most places, a lot of people are uninformed and pass on misinformation, but it seems like a good place to network.

Jay--You can self-publish a novel that been partially published on your blog, but you can't get a traditional publishing contract. Here's what agent Meredith Barnes has to say:

“Many writers serialize their work on their blogs. I cannot encourage you strongly enough to avoid that. Authors nearly always list "getting an agent" as the reason they put "teasers" on their blogs. But there is already a mechanism for showing your work to agents: the query. If you choose to do so anyway you put yourself breach of the warranties and indemnities clause of the publishing contract that you haven't even signed yet.”

Veronice--LOL. You have in your heritage one of the loveliest languages in the world, Italian. "Blog" sounds very Teutonic, I agree. if you want to call yours an "interactive website", go right ahead.

I must be a robot, too. I know I have old eyes, but those things are impossible. Three goes, and I give up. Often I don't waste the time trying at all any more.

January 20, 2013 at 5:16 PM  
Blogger Susan Flett Swiderski said...

What a helpful bunch of tips! Thank you. And thanks for the response about creating a "new page", too. I've been wanting to add a page accessible by a tab, so that sounds like a good place to start.

January 20, 2013 at 8:44 PM  
Blogger Michael Di Gesu said...

HI, Anne,

This was truly wonderful. Thanks Anne. I have been blogging for over two years, and I do many of these things. But, there were several points you have made which I was not aware of, so I will certainly implement them into my blog.

I like the fact that you SPELLED out everything. I also appreciate the fact that we can have a longer post. AND that we should WRITE... not bark about our latest books. I must say I don't visit authors who only focus on their latest novels and ALWAYS doing reviews. It get old. Giving readers YOU is the best advice I have heard yet about blogging. After all that is why we write ... to share our passions with readers.

I am becoming very attached to your blog Anne. I am so glad I found it.


January 20, 2013 at 10:58 PM  
Blogger Claude Nougat said...

Thanks, Anne, as always you're spot on! I would just add: the evidence is in, no one has ever sold books on a blog. Bookselling takes place elsewhere (on Amazon, Barnes and Noble etc)

Since that's the case, everyone should follow your example: enjoy writing on one's blog and network with others!

January 21, 2013 at 12:32 AM  
Blogger Charley Robson said...

Haha, spot on as ever Anne! Fab post!

January 21, 2013 at 1:24 AM  
Blogger D.G. Hudson said...

Thank you, Anne, for supporting what I've always believed about blogging. I kept saying, yes, yes, I agree. I mentioned this post on another blog today as one others should read. (the subject was platform)

We shouldn't be lemmings, nor loners. Enjoyed this!

January 21, 2013 at 8:47 AM  
Blogger NikkiF said...

Great post as ever - and reassuring that it doesn't matter that the topic of my approximately-weekly blog varies. Timely reminder too that I should comment on other people's blogs... ;-)

January 21, 2013 at 8:52 AM  
OpenID nadineatomlinson said...

A timely post, Anne, and just what I needed, as it will help me to find the right voice for my blog. I've made some related changes to it, with others to follow over time.

Such a great idea to include the Opportunity Alerts and the link to Nina Badzin's blog.


January 21, 2013 at 9:05 AM  
Blogger Natalie Aguirre said...

I just heard about this post from another blogger. What a great post. It saddens me how some people are cutting back on blogging and being a good blogger friend by reading blogs. I think you've really nailed why it's important to blog. Thanks.

January 21, 2013 at 9:33 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Susan—The “New Page” function is simple. And the program puts the tab on your front page.

Michael—I’m so glad you’re enjoying the blog. More great stuff coming up. Ruth’s going to have a fun post next week about quirky writing habits.

Claude—You’re right that a blog is not about direct sales. It’s about letting people get to know you so maybe they’ll want to buy your books. And trying to become your own retailer always seems to be more trouble than it’s worth. As ambivalent as most of us feel about the Mighty Zon, it’s a quick, easy way to sell our products.

Charley—Thanks. Congrats on the upcoming launch of St. Mallory’s Forever!

D.G.—Thanks for the shout-out. It’s all about that “golden mean” isn’t it? We want to be unique but not out in left field.

Nikki—Yes, leaving a thoughtful comment on a high traffic blog is going to get your name in front of a lot more eyeballs than on a newbie blog of your own. It’s time-consuming, but worth it.

Nadine—Writing books that sell is all about voice—and blogging helps develop that voice, so it’s all useful.

Natalie—Thanks for stopping by. Everybody has to cut blogging back when they’re on overload with finishing a novel or getting ready to launch, but then we need to get back in the habit—and not neglect reading other blogs. They help us keep up to date on what's happening in the industry.

January 21, 2013 at 10:30 AM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

I started blogging back in 2008, with being at first a refuge from the chat rooms, then later a place where I could have some, practice my writing and do a ton of networking with writers.

I blog about whatever happens to strike my fancy, and I have shared my trials and tribulations with my writing, from rejections to acceptances and everything in between.

Even ran a contest with my commercial debut and gave one lucky reader an opportunity to be part of a scene.

One point I would like to make is that while blogging can be a tremendous suckage of time, it is something that you do have to start prior to any writing career.

I find it to be an invaluable tool for my writing.

January 21, 2013 at 12:37 PM  
Blogger Nina Badzin said...

Anne, it is such an honor to have you single my blog out here as a good example of non-niche. Sometimes I wish I could settle on one topic, but I've managed to find writing opportunities (several paying) for each of my pet subjects because of the blog. . . not necessarily directly from my blog, but because of the practice I've had writing on those subjects. (If that makes sense!)

Really great tips here all around of course, Anne!

January 21, 2013 at 2:17 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

G. B--I love your phrase "refuge from chat rooms". Forums and chatrooms can be so contentious and unpleasant. Blogs are a place where you can control things and keep out the terminally pugnacious. I don't think every writer has to blog before they write a novel. What I do believe is everybody is different and needs to do what's right for them at the time that works for them.

Nina--I've been getting such a kick out of watching your blogging career soar. You have a very important word in your comment: "paying" Yes. Writing a blog helps you to learn to write for paying markets. You've become a professional--and you're the perfect example of how to do it right.

January 21, 2013 at 4:21 PM  
Blogger John Wiswell said...

These are all sensible suggestions, particularly for newer bloggers figuring out how some of this stuff works. I still wonder about headers, particularly for fiction-heavy blogs. They can work. Just what will catch for your niche can change so rapidly.

January 22, 2013 at 5:30 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

John--I'm especially writing for writers who have been urged to blog but find it daunting. But it doesn't have to be as daunting as people make it out to be.

But be wary of "fiction heavy blogs" Read my comment above to Jay. Be aware that you can't trad. pub anything you've put parts of on your blog. When you write your header, ask yourself: does it inform? does it entertain? Then frame the header accordingly. 10 ways to... is a good way to title an information blogpost. "Writers with their pants down" or whatever will signal that you've got jokes. If it's drama,do something like ask the story question. "Can a man survive on a planet populated by sentient snakes...and his mother-in-law?

January 22, 2013 at 9:20 PM  
Blogger Sara Snider said...

Thanks for this post. I'm an aspiring author working on my first novel. I've not yet created a blog because 1. I'm not sure what to write about and 2. I'm not willing (yet) to take the time needed away from my writing. I've been worrying if I'm "doing it wrong" by not having a blog yet. Your post gives me reassurance that I'm not committing a terrible blunder, and gives great advice for when I do start that blog. Thank you.

January 23, 2013 at 7:43 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sara--You're just the kind of writer I wrote this for. It bothers me to see new writers told they have to blog when they're already overwhelmed with learning the complexities of creative writing, developing voice, and dealing with the upheaval in the publishing industry. "One-size-fits-all" rules don't make sense to me.

January 23, 2013 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger Elisa Nuckle said...

I learned that I like bolding and numbered lists quite a bit. For a long time there I shunned things like that because I considered it "cheap." Then I realized I was being a snob, lol, and that even I wouldn't read my stuff because I skim on most blogs (since I read so many, which may or may not be a bad thing, I'm not sure yet, heh).

So yeah, I've learned quite a bit in the past year or so, and I'm just getting to the point where I feel confident in putting out a couple of books in a year -- haven't actually DONE that yet though. But I am. :)

January 24, 2013 at 12:13 PM  
Blogger Karen Prince said...

Ann this was such an amazing article for me because I am also doing Young Adult and I sort of suspect they are not into reading blogs so my blog subjects are all over the place.

One of the things I love about your blog is the simple design and the color. So restful. I don't know if it bothers other people but my worst thing in a blog is white writing on a black background I find it almost impossible to read no matter how edgy it looks.

I am pretty old but I love my FaceBook. If you get into the right groups they are sharing amazing information, industry news, marketing tricks, opinions on your book cover, tech help (as you have done here with setting up a bio page) They are also swapping reviews and stuff which I am not a fan of but I still get a lot of value there and have met some awesome people.

January 25, 2013 at 4:52 AM  
Blogger Michael Offutt, Speculative Fiction Author said...

Fantastic article. I think that I unconsciously do some of this. I know that I never blog about my writing process. My brain just doesn't work that way. I blog about stuff that I observe or things that I find interesting.

January 25, 2013 at 8:46 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Elisa--I think reading lots of blogs is a great way for a beginning writer to get to know the ropes of this complex business. And I discovered how to write "skim-worthy" prose that way. I always thought writing a real essay was "classier" too. But when I realized what my eyeballs preferred, I figured I'd better learn how to write it. Good luck in getting your books out there!

Karin--I think Young Adult authors are put in an awful dilemma when they're told to blog. Because, as you say, teens don't generally read blogs. You've got to go where your own readers are. If you're finding them on Facebook, that's where you need to be.

Facebook groups are the most important element of FB for me, too.

I agree 100% about white text on black. Even worse: charcoal gray on black. Just had to give up on a blog with that "color" scheme yesterday. Unreadable. I'm glad you like the look of our blog. I started out with an old template that was brown and beige. Soothing, but gloomy. I chose this color because it's easy on the eyes (there's a reason typesetters used to wear green eyeshades.) It's also supposed to be the color that inspires creativity. If I can inspire anybody to got off and create, I'll feel my work is done.

Michael--Sometimes fans can be interested in the writing process, but we need to be very careful about how often we talk about it. And if you're not published, talk about your querying woes can get old fast. Observations and insights are going to be more interesting to the general public

January 25, 2013 at 10:03 AM  
OpenID gwynplainelives said...

Hi there!
First time blog dropper byer here; I just wanted to say this is by far THE most helpful blog post I've read about social media and blogging for authors and aspiring authors, and I will definitely be re-reading it a few times to make sure I'm following this wonderful advice as I'm preparing to re-tool and post more on my writer blog this year.

Thanks very much!

January 25, 2013 at 12:36 PM  
Blogger Peter Dudley said...

One of my favorite parts of blogging is seeing what search terms draw people to my blog. Clearly I'm not doing the headers and name right because most of the search terms people use involve poorly spelled R-rated words.

January 25, 2013 at 12:39 PM  
Blogger Murielle Cyr said...

Loved this! Thanks for your insight.

January 27, 2013 at 9:33 AM  
Blogger Elise Fallson said...

What a fantastic post! And it seems that some of the things I thought I was doing wrong, I'm actually doing right!

January 27, 2013 at 2:21 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Anita--So glad you find it helpful. I appreciate the comments and the tweets.

Peter--Don't you hate that--when you check your analytics and it turns out people got there by mistake looking for porn? Happens to all of us, I fear.

Murielle--Thanks for stopping by!

Elise--Don't you love it when it turns out your natural instincts were right?

January 27, 2013 at 2:46 PM  
OpenID alarnarosegray.com said...

Hi Anne.. Every time I come here your posts are packed full of value. I'm still aspiring, and still a newbie blogger in my mind. Maybe I started too soon - because it is a time suck.

But I know I'm loving it, and the process of the weekly blog post has been illuminating for me as a writer. Where it takes me in the grander scheme... who knows.

January 29, 2013 at 10:24 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

alarnarose--If you're enjoying blogging and you find you're growing as a writer--then it's not a time suck: it's part of your learning process. All writing is contributing to your growth as a writer. Think of it as a writing class--and hey, it's free! I'm only telling beginning writers who don't want to blog that they don't have to. So glad you hear you enjoy our blog!

January 30, 2013 at 9:18 AM  
Blogger Linda Adams said...

I've been blog hiatus since December due to a writing class I've been taken. But it and this post has given me something to seriously think about. I'm a fiction writer, and it's always been hard coming up with topics that relate to my "brand." So I will be doing some experimenting!

January 30, 2013 at 6:53 PM  
Blogger Lani Wendt Young said...

Great post - excellent tips. I love blogging ( even more than writing novels, shhhhh...) More and more, I'm finding that my blogging "voice" is perfect training/prep for my WIP. Its very true that learning to write for a blog can help you to be a better writer -or at least, help you to refine and find your writing voice. My blog readers have been the most supportive team for my novels that came later. They have organized book signings, launches in different countries, recommended me to TV networks through their contacts and more. I started blogging long before i knew i was going to write novels and I think the key is that my enjoyment /joy for my blog material shows through. I recommend people blog about what they're passionate about, what moves them, what makes them laugh...or cry. Those are the kind of blogs I enjoy reading as well.

January 30, 2013 at 7:44 PM  
Blogger Athena said...

Quick question with regard to unpublished authors and their work... exactly how sticky are publishers on this point? I don't want to give away my 'first rights', but I do want to be able to use my blog as a place to talk in more abstract terms about what I've learned and am learning about the writing process as I work on my novel. I was hoping to create a page that I can use as a base reference when I'm talking about "the novel" that would include a brief teaser on the story, (something book jacket style), as well as some notes on things like when I started writing the book, the number of books I'm planning in the series, etc.

Could that be seen as breaking 'first rights' even if nothing of the actual pages themselves get posted?

February 16, 2013 at 12:09 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Athena--It's usually okay to use a short excerpt if you're illustrating a point. For instance: "My critique group said this wasn't working as my opening para"___" so I changed it to this "___"

But advertising an unpublished book can look pretty clueless. Be careful. You do not attract agents or editors by posting bits of your WIP on your blog. You do that with a query.

And if you're planning to self-publish, it's much, much better to have the book out there before you start promoting it. Put your energy into getting the book published first. After that, you'll have to spend a whole lot of time on promotion, believe me, so enjoy your promotion-free state for a while.

Until then, use your blog for making observations, talking about your genre or setting and making friends.

February 16, 2013 at 12:23 PM  

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