February 19th, 2008
Student X writes: I was in your class last summer on “Everything you Wanted to Know About Getting Published.” I am in the process of starting a proposal for a non-fiction work, but I want to start a little buzz about it and start a blog. How do you suggest blogging regarding this so that the publisher has something to look at? I’m not sure how to start. I’m not much of a blogger anyway, but I write reviews of books on goodreads.com all the time.
I answer: Congrats on working on that book proposal. Cool! Here are my recommendations for starting a blog. I’m sure others will chime in with their suggestions too.
- Sign up for a free blog account with Blogger, TypePad, or WordPress.
- Pick a template for your blog. These are also free.
- If I’ve already lost you, read a book on blogging. Or take a class. Or have a blog-savvy friend walk you through the setup.
- Pick a topic for your blog, a niche you’ll stick with. Don’t be a generalist. Since you’re trying to build what’s known as a “platform” for your nonfiction book, your blog topic should be the same as that of your book: wrench-wielding women, mimes who love too much, recovering Republicans, etc.
- Pick a relevant, catchy name for your blog.
- If you need inspiration, check out some other blogs by authors to see how their blog complements their book topic, or at least showcases their crafty writing. Some blogs by authors I know: Offbeat Bride, Single State of the Union, Bad Advice, Totally Wired, Watercooler Wisdom, The Renegade Writer, Lusty Lady, Felicia Sullivan, Marci Alboher, Boss Lady.
- Also check out blogs by people who went from blogging to book deal: Escape from Cubicle Nation, Breakup Babe, Happily Even After, Lifehacker, and Web Worker Daily are a few examples. Here are some more — these “blookers” were even nominated for an award.
- Read Galley Cat to learn more about who’s getting book deals from blogs these days. Sign up for Publishers Lunch. Skim Publishers Weekly. And google “blog to book.”
- Make sure your About Me page gives your real name, your email address, and your writing/subject matter credentials. Be sure to include a photo of yourself, and make sure you brush your hair and teeth.
- Start blogging! Preferably posts that are 300 to 600 words (give or take) in length.
- Use photos whenever you can. And links. Especially to other blogs.
- Proofread your posts and check your links.
- Send out a blanket email to everyone you’ve ever met in your life telling them about your blog. Do this after you’ve made a few posts you’re proud of. Only do this once.
- Add your blog URL to the signature of your email address.
- Join some writing listservs or online communities and contribute to the conversation, keeping that signature in all your posts. Ditto for online communities revolving around the topic of your book.
- Post to your blog at least three times a week. Stay on topic, and don’t be afraid to be opinionated, funny, and/or controversial.
- Never apologize for not posting for the past two weeks. No one cares. If you have a lot of readers, a better idea is to do a post like this in advance.
- If you feel compelled to blog about your cat, try to find the tie-in to your overall blog’s topic. Otherwise, maybe skip the cute pet posts.
- Read and comment on other people’s blogs. It’s the best way to get new readers to come to your blog — and to raise your Google rank.
- Read articles on how to blog. Here’s one that people seem to like, though I tend to shy away from all those Best/Richest/Smartest Blogger Ever types. Here’s an even better tip list by my friend Amanda; it includes some suggestions for books on blogging too.
- Get a free tool to measure your site traffic so you can see what posts people like the best and how many readers you have. Here are a few: Site Meter, Google Analytics, MyBlogLog. This is not my forte, so I’m sure others will chime in.
- Speaking of, know that blogging means putting yourself out there. Sometimes rude, nasty people with nothing better to do make obnoxious comments on your site, often anonymously. That’s the way of the web unfortunately. You have the option to hit Delete. More often than not, though, the comments will be supportive, encouraging, helpful. You may even make a new friend or two. Maybe even a book agent friend. And wouldn’t that be nice?
- Above all, have fun. If blogging sounds like a chore, maybe you’re better off publishing a couple of well-placed articles on your pet topic instead (think Huffington Post, Salon, Slate).