Sunday, August 14, 2011

How to Blog Like a Funny, Children’s Book, YA, Fantasy, Science Fiction Writer

If anyone should have a blog, it’s a writer. Words are our livelihood, and a blog is like free advertising for what we do. Who wouldn’t want to advertise his or her business to possible clients all over the world for free? And, from the point of view of a reader, I'd much rather read a blog written by someone who can write than by someone who can't. Wouldn't you agree?
But it seems that many writers don’t blog, and those that do rarely blog effectively.
I get it. Making up stories about made up people is fun. But blogging can seem kind of scary. What do you write about? How will you make it interesting? Will people read it? And sometimes it feels as if you’ve been blogging for what seems like forever, you’ve spent hours writing dozens of posts, and no one cares.  Isn't blogging a waste of time that you could be spending writing your next book?

Well, no. It’s hard work, and it can take several years to see results, but it does eventually pay off if you do it right. If you're unpublished, blogging can impress agents and editors by showing you have a platform, as in thousands of people who are interested in what you have to say. And if you're published--whether traditionally or as an indie publisher--it can help you connect with readers, which can help you sell books. So how exactly do you do it right?

Here is a list of some questions many writers have about blogging and some answers to these questions:

How do I attract readers to my blog?
ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income

Start by writing 10-15 pillar articles. According to ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income by Darren Rowse and Chriss Garrett, a pillar article is an article that attracts readers to your blog by giving them something they’re looking for. Pillar articles need to be focused on the core topic of your blog. They need to be useful or entertaining. The best pillar articles are 500-1,000-words long, have short paragraphs, headers, sub-headers, and at least one graphic. Lists and step-by-step guides make great pillar articles.

So how does this work for a writer?
 We Are Not Alone: The Writer's Guide to Social Media
According to We Are Not Alone: The Writer's Guide to Social Mediaby Kristen Lamb, if you’re writing nonfiction, your pillar articles should be authoritative. Readers will come to you looking for answers, and your blog will give them those answers.

If you’re a fiction writer, though, readers will probably look to you more for entertainment than information. A fiction writer’s best pillar articles should encourage comments and discussion. They should offer readers a way to connect with the writer, because that connection sells books. One of the best ways to encourage feedback is by starting with a title that asks a question. For example, “Who has the last word when it comes to children’s books: writers, publishers, parents or kids?” Of course, a writer should be prepared for some lively debate, because not everyone will agree with what the writer has to say.

How do pillar articles attract readers?

Search engines look for keywords in your tags (or labels), title, and your content. That’s why it’s important to have a list of keywords that fit the topic of your blog and to use them in these areas, particularly in your titles and in the first few words of your articles.

How do I get readers to come back to my blog?

Entertaining or useful content keeps readers coming back, so make sure there’s always fresh, entertaining or useful content. Try to blog between once a day and once a week (three to five times a week is good), but don’t say something just to say something. Good content once a week is better than good content once a week along with bad content three times a week.  Be consistent, and stay on topic, so readers know what to expect. For example, I regularly check out Dave Barry's blog, because I know it's going to be funny.

It usually takes years for a good blog to get up to speed, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results right away. Stick with it. Stay positive, and be nice to your readers. People usually like to hang around other people who make them feel good. Don’t polarize your readers, unless that’s a part of your brand and your marketing strategy.

How do I choose the general topic for my blog?

That depends on the image you want to create. Fill in the blank, “I want to be the writer readers turn to when they’re looking for________________.”

What would you put at the end of that sentence? Excitement? Something to make them laugh? Romance? Fantasy? Science Fiction? Inspiration? A best friend who understands them? A story they can share with their kids? All of the above?

Use your posts to give visitor a taste of what you have to offer. If you write humor (like I do), your blog posts should have some humor. If you write romance, you might want to spice things up a bit. It couldn’t hurt. Write about your books, but not just your books. Always write in a way that serves your visitor first, not your own ends.

How do I come up with specific topics?

Keywords help search engines find articles on a certain topic, so start by making a list. You want 20 core keywords that you’ll use over and over in your blog posts, words a reader might type into a search engine to look for a writer like you, words that define who you are as a writer. Start by writing down as many as you can think of, and then highlight the top 20. Why 20? This is the maximum number of keywords that Blogger (or Blogspot) allows on a blog post. While you might use a different platform, it’s still a good number to stick to, because it will keep your blog more focused.

Here’s my list of keywords to give you an idea of what yours might look like:

Shevi Arnold, novelist, writer, author, teen, YA fiction, children’s books, funny, humor, comedy, geek, ebooks, fantasy, science fiction, stories, storyteller, magic, dreamer, publisher, imagination.

This doesn’t mean that all my blog posts will have all these tags or they won’t sometimes have very different tags, but these are the tags I want to use most often to help search engines (and potential readers) find my blog. Combine these keywords, and you’ll get an idea of who I am (writer, author, storyteller), what I write (children’s books, YA fiction, humor, fantasy and science fiction), and my general style and attitude (funny, geek, dreamer).

How do I turn my keywords into 10-15 pillar articles?

The purpose of your pillar articles is to give your visitors something that will make them happy they came to your blog—and a reason to come back again. Pillar articles also help visitors create an image of you, something they think of when they see your name. Look at your keywords, and ask yourself what you can give visitors. Is there something you know that visitors might not know but would love to? Are there questions you used to have that you’ve since discovered the answers to? What matters to you, and how does that relate to your readers? Do your readers feel deeply about the same things, and could that shared feeling connect you and your readers? These are the kinds of things that would make great pillar topics for your blog.

As an example, here’s a list of some of the ideas I’ve had for pillar articles, ones that fit my expertise and the image I’m trying to create:

1.       Where do you get your ideas? How you, too, can have more stories concepts than you know what to do with

2.       Me Write Funny Someday—how to add humor to your writing

3.       Let ‘em read comics! If you want to turn kids into readers, let them read what they want to read.

4.       Who let the grownups in here? Why adults are falling in love with YA and books for kids.

5.       Let the meek inherit the earth. The geeks will inherit the stars! How geeks are taking over the world (and why that’s a good thing)

6.       Ten great fantasy novels for girls

7.       If you can’t beat ‘em, study ‘em! What writers can learn from movies and other forms of storytelling

8.       The ten biggest mistakes aspiring YA novelists make (and how to avoid them)

9.       The five best books to read if you want to write fiction

10.   The one most important thing every aspiring children’s book or YA writer should know…

11.   Why fantasy is the most honest genre of all

12.   Why are there so few funny books for teens?

13.   Stories within stories: from Scheherazade to Toren

14.   Is the magic in Harry Potter real after all?

15.   The power of belief, and what this means to fiction writers

Is there anything else I can do to attract readers to my blog?

Lots! You can include your blog’s URL in the signature of your emails, post on other blogs or in forums and use your avatar link back to your blog, give your blog an easy to remember name and a great description, guest blog for others, link to other blogs, and so much more. We Are Not Alone: The Writer's Guide to Social Media has a great list of ways writers can make social media work for them.

I haven't always done this blogging thing right, but I'm learning, and I'm trying to put what I've learned into practice.  It's never too late to change.
So will your blog give your readers?


Anthony J Langford said...

Well written Shevi and very informative.

Thanks for your wonderful insights and for sharing what you have learnt.


jilldempsey_3 said...

this is brilliant. I'm plodding slowly with a blog and you've hand-picked the stumbles very neatly. If you can teach me comedy, that will be a miracle :)

Shevi said...

Thanks, Anthony.

And thanks, Jill. I don't know about teaching you comedy. You seem to know more than you think. Your comment made me laugh out loud.

Jennifer said...

Hi, Shevi. I followed a comment on LinkedIn to your blog, and read several posts. I'm in the same quandry as a fiction writer, beginning a blog to build a following. But my blog is writing-based, and I feel like my followers will be writers or would-be-writers.

You are a children's/fantasy/sci-fi/funny writer, so I would think you would want your blog readers to be kids and adults who buy/read those. But more than half of your pillar article ideas are specifically geared to writers. So is your blog audience writers or potential book buyers? And if it's writers following you, how does that translate into a publisher feeling like you have a platform?

I started my blog this spring, but it got put on hold. I'm just about ready to start making regular posts, and I'm definitely going to order Kristen Lamb's book.

Thanks, Jen

Nancy said...

Hi Shevi,
Thanks for the tips, they were great. I am new to blogging and doing my best to find all the info I can. This was one of the best articles for newbies I have run across.