Thursday, November 11, 2010

Writer's Blog: Why Not Blogging Is Blocking Your Career

By Maria Rainier

A friend of mine—a budding writer—detests the idea of blogging. She’s never done it, she never wants to do it, and she groans at the mere mention of friends who do do it. Although part of her is selfless—the part of her that claims she doesn’t have the ego to blog about herself and her work to a vast audience of web crawlers—the other part of her is ruled by the very ego that detests the idea of having an ego at all. Ultimately, it is her ego that keeps her from blogging about her ego.

A bit of ego, however, is integral to marketing your written work. Publishing your book and attending questionable book signings alone is like letting a page fall to the floor in an empty room. Though a traditionalist you may be, the blogosphere is ripe for your marketing and self-promotion. Use it.

Go Forth and Blog

Others, still, hesitate to blog because they don’t know how or they’ve never done it. Many of the rules of blogging coincide with rules of print writing, so you’re ahead of the game as it is.

Know Your Audience and Write for Them

Once you’re even lucky enough to have passing viewers at all, you’ve got to keep them there. Engage them by:

1. Asking a question. Connect with your viewers and give them a task. While they’ll never admit it, most people love talking about themselves or the things they care about. Let them.

2. Holding a contest. Not only does this allow you to connect with your viewers, you get to challenge them. This can be a writing contest or a go-an-entire-week-without-eating-out challenge.

3. Starting a trend. Encourage viewers to write on their own blogs about a certain topic—anything from the latest congressional fiasco to a favorite fictional hero.

Write About Your Book

1. Readers always ask, “From where do you get your inspiration?” Write about what makes you tick, what gives you ideas, and what might help other writers get theirs. Go into specifics: did a certain car wreck inspire your short story? Did a news article or neighborhood rumor spark your mystery novel?

2. Don’t be shy, either, about giving out tips. If something works for you, it might work for others. A helpful blog is a popular blog.

3. Write about themes of your story. Are they personal issues that others might be able to relate to, or are they worldwide issues that could use some attention?

4. Post short excerpts from your work. If readers like your style and are hooked by a single page of your work, they’re more likely to buy it.

5. Write about the research you conducted—which you undoubtedly did on some level—for your work. They don’t even have to apply directly to your story. This is merely content to intrigue your viewers.

6. What other works are in your genre? Write a history of it, especially the controversial bits, and update your blog with news from your genre. Review and recommend other works, as well.

Invite Other Writers to Write

1. Welcome guest posts to your blog. This adds more content to your page (and if the guest post isn’t what you want, you can just as easily request a re-write and reject it altogether; but be wary with your manners).

2. Interview other writers, publishers, or related contacts. Perspective helps a blog garner different types of viewers and maintains an atmosphere of fairness and open-mindedness.

Write About Yourself

This is where people like my friend mentioned above have trouble. “My life isn’t interesting, and even if it was, who cares?”

It is a bit self-important to believe that in the limitless blogosphere and the ultimate Athenian democracy that is the Internet, your thoughts are of any importance to anyone.

The fact is, however, you’ve been lucky enough to be published and people care about it enough to publish it in the first place. Let your viewers decide whether or not your life and thoughts are interesting.

1. Write about the adventures (or lack thereof) of being a writer. What surprised you during the process? What sort of people did you meet? What challenges did you face? How have you changed as a person and an author?

2. Make announcements about your upcoming book signings, blog tours, interviews, events, reviews, and otherwise. Google yourself and share what you find.

3. Share your personal life. As long as there’s some kind of point—or even a joke—readers will appreciate it. Write about politics (but be sure, again, to mind your manners), your dog and the weird way she walks, how the printer crashes every morning and you want to recreate that scene from Office Space. Another writing friend of mine wrote one paragraph on his blog on Halloween night about an owl hooting in his yard, and how, never having heard a live owl before, he wondered if someone was playing a trick on him, and who would put forth the time and effort into such a petty joke. While short and silly, it was engaging and funny, even pensive. Judging by the comments his viewers left behind, it was effective.

Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, researching areas of online degree programs. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

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