Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent.
As promised, this week we're continuing our Platform Monster discussion by talking about blogging.
Blogging is the easiest way for any author to get their feet wet when it comes to online promotions. It has a free-form approach, meaning you can be as long-winded as you like, and it’s fairly simple to navigate, with free blogging services available from blogspot.com, wordpress.com and more. They even come with tutorials. It’s a win-win.
But blogging doesn’t come without its share of hurdles.
There are approximately 150+ million blogs. That’s 150+ million peopl screaming for attention. For your blog to rise out of this noisy mess, it needs to be good. It needs to be really good. And for it to result in a salable platform, well…let’s just say it needs to be near perfect.
So let’s start with the basics and build from there.
The reason there are 150+ million blogs is because everyone has something to say…or at least they think they do. Of those 150+ million blogs, 149.9 million are written poorly. And the basic rule of writing is that you don’t get anywhere with a poorly-written blog, manuscript or what-have-you, right?
So let’s take a look at some of the most ignored, broken and abused rules of a well-crafted blog post.
Five (of the many) Rules of Blogging:
1. Stick to the goal – Before you begin, give your blog a goal (this is a good rule of thumb for ALL of your social media sites).
Do you want to promote yourself as an author/speaker/expert? Do you want to promote your book? Do you want to connect with fans? Do you want to offer an online experience that ties in with your book? These are important questions, and without answering them, your blog will turn into a mush of information.
For example, we’ve all come to know and love Chip’s blog. He provides valuable information on the industry and is a huge help to writers.
But what would happen if Chip suddenly started blogging about the Oregon Ducks? He certainly loves them enough to do so, and we all know he isn’t shy about his affections. So what if every other post was a recap of their season? And then what if on the weekends, he shifted gears with his blog and talked all about dancing? (Yes, Chip dances). What would happen then?
I’ll tell you what would happen…he’d start to lose readers. Sure, he’d gain a few who are interested in the Ducks and dancing, but all of you who come here for publishing insight would soon find other places to go. The bottom line is that he wouldn’t be hitting his target market anymore. He’d instead be hitting a niche market interested in publishing, the Oregon Ducks and dancing. Not exactly a best-seller-sized readership.
When your blog lacks a clear, singular goal, you will either lose readers or gain readers who aren’t going to contribute to your success in publishing. Simple as that.
2. Treat each post like a story…have a beginning, middle and end – It’s a common mistake for bloggers to cram multiple themes/points/declarations in each blog post. What you end up with is smorgasbord of personal opinion and experiences, and the reader is left to wade through it all and extract what they want.
This is why each blog post, no matter the topic, should be treated like a book. It should have a beginning, in which it teases the reader or introduces the topic; a middle, in which it provides additional information; and an ending, in which it hits it all home and brings it together.
A good example of this is here on my personal blog. It’s a humor post, but notice how the opening line presents the subject matter in a way that is both intriguing and funny. The next few paragraphs offer supportive information, building on the subject matter without fully disclosing what the heck I’m talking about. Then, the final paragraph brings it all home for an ending that (I’m hoping) is both enlightening and laugh-out-loud funny.
(Note: My blog is NOT a professional blog. It’s simply something that I do for me, so it doesn’t follow many of these guidelines).
3. Keep it casual – There’s this tendency to treat blogging as you would an essay. Proper grammar, no contractions, complete sentences. But that’s the very mindset that will kill your blog. Think of it more as a conversation with friends. Throw grammar rules to the wind and leave properly-formatted sentences to your high school English teacher.
Trust me. You’ll get a lot more readers this way.
4. Don’t forget voice! – Your author voice is one of the most effective weapons you have in making your blog a success, yet you’d be surprised at how many authors don’t incorporate it into their blogging. Think of it this way: your blog is an advertisement for your books. And what better way to prove you’re a great writer than to have a strong, compelling blogging voice?
5. Avoid the “daily diary” syndrome – This is probably the biggest problem for those 149.9 million bloggers, and it can be summed up in one sentence: No one cares what you had for dinner.
There’s this tendency to treat a blog like a journal where you archive your day’s events. But the truth is, no one cares that you went to the grocery store after picking up Travis from football practice. And no one cares that you found ground beef on sale for $2 a pound.
If you’re blogging about your personal life (this goes back to rule #1), avoid the tendency to rehash all of the events of your day. Pick ONE event and form a blog post around that. Give it a beginning, middle and end, and your blog will leave readers wanting more.
I hate to be pointing you to my personal blog, since it’s not a shining example of perfection, but if you look at that post again, you’ll see that I wrote it the day before my best friend’s wedding. I had a million topics to choose from. I could have written about her dress, or the decor, or the strange guy I had to walk down the aisle with. I could have written about how I barely got off work in time to be there or how I was wearing shoes with million-inch heels. But instead of cramming all that juicy (and sometimes entertaining) information into a neverending post, I selected one thing. One thing that I felt encapsulated the experience. And truth be told…that blog post almost landed me a major marketing job at a college here in Fort Wayne.
Once you’ve mastered blog writing, then you can focus on the components that will draw readers to your blog…which will be next week’s topic. (I had intended to fit it all in one, but I’m not sure you’d want to read a 2,000 word blog post).
So that’s it…five of the hundreds of rules for a great blog post. What rules do you rely on? What rules have you been breaking?