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Emily Benet’s blog about working in a lighting shop Shop Girl Diaries was spotted by Salt Publishing, who loved it so much they offered her a book deal. As well as writing, Emily now runs workshops on blogging for beginners and improvers. (Her next workshop is on Saturday July 13th – click here to find out more.)
1. Blog about what you love
Whatever it is you think you should be blogging about, forget it. Successful creative bloggers don’t set up their blog based on what they think will get them a million followers, a publishing deal and an award for Best Blog of the Year. Successful bloggers start their blogs motivated by a passion for their subject, a passion that sustains their blog and keeps them developing new ideas for it over the years to come. Yes, years. Blogging is not a shortcut to getting published and takes real commitment to be effective, so if you blog about what you think you should rather than what you would love to blog about then it’s more than likely your posts will dry up before the year is out.
I chose my Mum’s chandelier shop as the subject of my blog Shop Girl Diaries because it was what I knew best. I wasn’t an expert in selling chandeliers, just an expert in trying to sell them. I began my blog because I wanted to write not because I loved my job, but having a clear subject focused me and made it easier to produce something week after week. It also meant when Salt Publishing followed the link I’d left on their Facebook wall to my blog, instead of random thoughts and pictures of what I’d had for breakfast, they found a concept for a book.
2. Make your concept clear
Did you see the film Julie and Julia? It was based on a true story about a blogger called Julie Powell who took on the challenge to cook all of Julia Child’s 524 recipes in 365 days (and blog about it). A simple but brilliant idea, firstly, because she loved cooking, and secondly because her subject was bound to attract not only fellow cooks, both aspiring and established, but also any fans of Julia Child. Once you’ve decided what it is you’d really love to blog about, ask yourselves who else would be interested in your idea. A blog documenting your random thoughts might interest a few of your friends, but unless you have a particularly distinctive and entertaining voice, your audience is unlikely to grow much bigger. It’s not difficult to see why Julie Powell’s blog lead to a publishing deal and a film. Books with a clear concept do well in the publishing industry and it’s no different in the blogosphere.
Blogging can get you out of a creative slump, like Noah Scalin of Skull-a-Day, a fine artist who decided to post a picture of a skull every day for a year. He created them using diverse materials, from rubber bands to scrap metal. A publisher commissioned his book ‘Skulls’ and the following year his blog was sustained by readers sending in their own pictures. For a blog to take off you need one good idea and the determination to see it through.
3. Don’t write about writing!
Writers seem to be forever blogging about the writing process. I’m guilty of it too. But if you love writing, why not just write, rather than write about writing? Publishers aren’t interested in whether you’re physically writing but whether you’re any good at it. Take your time. Think about it. What excites you?
Of course, if you’re an expert like Nicola Morgan, author of over 90 books across many genres, then it does make sense to blog about writing. Nicola Morgan’s blog Help! I need a Publisher attracted a large following because readers trusted her advice because she’d been there and done it. Likewise her large readership gave Snowbooks the confidence to commission her excellent book Write to Be Published. If you are an expert, then people will want to read what you have to say. If you aren’t an expert, then become one.
4. Offer great content
There are many different strategies you can implement to increase your blog hits, but the most effective is to offer good content. If your blog posts are well written and add value, be it entertainment value, advice, insider knowledge, insight, great storytelling skills, then people will want to share them with others. Next you might get asked to write a guest blog or an article for an online magazine. Say yes to these opportunities as it’s a good way of building your online presence and a large online presence gets you noticed.
The more pro-active you are, the more likely the doors to publication will open. Be patient. Blog regularly. Focus on building your readership. If you don’t get asked to write a guest blog, then pitch one. Ditto articles to online magazines. You might not have been published before but if your blog shows you have a readership and you write well then editors will be more receptive.
5. Find your community
If you’re struggling to get a following you’re problem might be that you’re blogging in isolation. Seek out your community. Seek out similar blogs. Engage with them by leaving comments. Support them by sharing their content. Writers on Twitter will be aware of how strong the online writing community is and if you’re serious about increasing your readership then I’d advise you to sign up if you haven’t already. When you get there, make sure to reward good tweets with retweets and join the conversation if it’s relevant to your subject.
6. Stay simple
When it comes to the look of your blog, the main thing is that it’s comfortable to read. Don’t choose dark backgrounds with fancy fonts that’ll hurt your readers’ eyes and have them clicking off to another blog before they’ve finished the first sentence. Consider the length of your sentences, the space between your paragraphs. Add pictures to make your blog look more attractive. The online reader is bombarded with choice, so you’ve got to think about what will put them off. If you’re not sure, then ask someone. Never be afraid to ask for help.
7. Use sharing widgets
To give your blog its best chance of being promoted, make sure you’re using sharing widget. These are the facebook, twitter and other social network buttons that often appear automatically on blog platforms such wordpress.com and blogger.com beneath each blog post. People like to follow blogs in different ways so activate the option for your readers to follow by mail or by RSS. Integrate your online presence. If you are on Twitter, then make sure your account can be accessed through your blog. The same goes for if you have a Facebook page or you are on Linked In.
I’ve been blogging for five years now and a lot of wonderful things have happened because if it. There have also been times when I’ve felt utterly stuck. Sometimes you just need a break from it. Other times you might need a complete change of direction. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Perhaps instead of writing a post, you could try out a video blog? Or perhaps you need to set yourself a challenge with a time limit like the blogger in Julie and Julia? Whatever you decide to do with your blog, do it because you want to, not because you should.
BLOGGING FOR BEGINNERS and IMPROVERS
Saturday 13th July 10.30am – 2.30pm (including 30min break)
@ 77 Tower Bridge Road, SE1 4TW
Fee: £40.00 Limited Places.
This intensive workshop is packed with tips about how to make the most of your blog, how to promote it, gain a readership, keep it interesting and also, importantly, what to avoid. If you’ve been meaning to start a blog for a long time, why put it off any longer? Come along for a friendly, fun and informative workshop.
Emily was born in London to a Welsh mother and Spanish father, but spent her teenage years in Barcelona. Her debut book 'Shop Girl Diaries' began as a blog about working in her Mum's eccentric chandelier shop. It won the CompletelyNovel Author Blog Awards at the London Book Fair in 2010 and inspired her script for Shop Girl Blog, a comedy taster starring Katy Wix. Emily has contributed articles on Blogging and Social Media to guidebooks and magazines including Survival Guide to Journalism, Publishing Talk, The New Writer and Mslexia and runs Blogging for Beginners and Improvers workshops. Her new book is a romantic comedy called 'Spray Painted Bananas'. She is represented by Laura Longrigg at MBA.