Monday, January 2, 2012

The Blog Essentials

It’s the new year and you probably declared how you will fulfill a number of well-intentioned resolutions. If you have a book to promote and market, chances are you declared you will blog more often, be a better blogger, or begin to take up the craft of blogging. So if one really wants to have their blog take off, just what should it include?

I have to admit I see two sides to every aspect of blogging. And even when I feel like I found the right formula or approach, I run out of time, energy, or focus to execute the things I believe I should be doing. Blogging is like being on a diet: I don’t always do what I know is the right thing. That’s ok; most people fail at dieting. Still, if you want to explore how to put out a better blog, consider these things:

The frequency in which you publish depends on a number of things. Do you do it weekly? Daily? Less often; more often? I have found I like posting every work week day, except for holidays, vacations, or whenever I just couldn’t get my act together. I am addicted to writing it. The ideas just flow naturally and I enjoy getting the thoughts out of my head and onto paper -- er, uh -- a screen. But for some, even natural writers, they feel burdened to blog at all, let alone with any great frequency. Whatever time frame you choose, be consistent. If you publish once a week, pick the same day and time of day to do so. Readers come to expect your content on a schedule. You will end up getting into a rhythm as a result. But if you truly feel like writing a blog is a chore or that you have nothing to write about, don’t do it. Blogging is important, but it should only be done willingly.

Next up: length. How long should your blog entries be? Some like to write a few hundred words; others closer to 500 or 1,000, and yet others even longer. If you post daily, you probably don’t want the entries getting too long, but the way to determine length is simple: Ask yourself if the piece your are penning is interesting. People will read as few or as many words as they feel holds their interest. No set number of words has been determined to be the ideal blog post.
The subject matter of your blog can vary wildly too, though the ones that tend to have a specific theme or cover a target genre or industry will likely get more reader loyalty. Even if you narrow it down to a specific topic – such as book marketing – you can still go in any number f directions. Is your blog going to be mainly full of opinions – yours? Facts and stats? Reviews? Interviews? All of the above? Find the style that fits your comfort level and that meets the needs of your readers.

The voice of the blog is the key to your success. How do you come off to readers? What persona will you embrace and put out there? Will you use humor, philosophy, questions, arguments, declarations, observations, religion or some other approach to give your blog entries a personality or perspective? I like to make observations, raise concerns, share opinions on what I see in the news media and from professional experiences, and to draw connections between what goes on in the world to how we market books. You should develop your own style. Seek to be different or better than others. Don’t just settle for being as good as everyone else, just as you wouldn’t do so with the writing of your book. It’s hard to sound special, new, or unique, but try to. Or, go the other way. Just be a copycat and an aggregator and quote what you see out there and serve more as an editor of what is out there online.

There are many other things to consider for making a better blog. For instance, how decorative do you want to be with the design of your blog? Will you use art and photos to enhance the look of the blog? Will you allow comments to be posted on your blog? Will you invite guest blog entries from others? Do you have an editorial policy or a mission statement?

Whatever you do with your blog, enjoy it. And remember why you are blogging. For some, it’s to build up their media resume. They are establishing their online voice and creating a brand. For others, it’s to share their views and be heard. Many use the blog to sell something. Whatever the reason for your blogging, let that guide you as to what your blog’s look, contents and frequency of publication will be.

Seek to make 2012 your best blogging year ever!

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