Friday, March 11, 2016

10 Tips for Using Blogging to Build Your Writer's Platform

Ah. So here you are, seeking wisdom in the blogging department. You must be truly desperate to come to me for help.

Sorry. I'm not one to pass up a good Loki quote.

Despite the fact that I have a very unprofessional propensity for spouting nerd quotes, I do, in fact, know a thing or two about blogging, especially when it comes to using it to build a writer's platform.

A while ago I wrote a post about how to build a successful writer's platform. Since then, I've received a surprising amount of follow-up questions, particularly ones about blogging. How does you start blogging? Which platform should you use? How often should you blog and what should you blog about and how should your blog look and oh my gosh why is this so complicated?

Don't worry. I have answers. *pulls out list* Let's get started. Here are 10 tips for using blogging as a successful writer's platform:
  1. Pick a platform. There are several different places where you can decide to set up camp. Wordpress and Blogger are the most common. Which should you choose? Honestly, that's a matter of preference. Wordpress seems to have a slight edge over Blogger: it's very sleek and user-friendly and has a wide variety of templates. So why do I use Blogger? Because I was using Blogger before Wordpress became popular. I was familiar with it, so when I started this blog, I just automatically went with Blogger. They've been good to me, this blog has good SEO, and I'm happy. So while I'd generally recommend Wordpress, you're probably not going to die if you choose Blogger. However, if you are considering Tumblr, be careful. Tumblr is great, but a lot of people don't have Tumblr accounts and don't read blogs on there, so it's best to use a site specifically designed for blogging. Squarespace is also wonderful. It's what I use for my website. However, it is not free and free is key when first starting out blogging....Especially if you're a poor writer. 
  2. Keep it simple, stupid. When designing your blog, it's best to keep things low key. Don't worry about making it super fancy. You can always do that later when you're comfortable with how blogging works. Besides, for a writing blog, it's best to have a lot of white space and open areas. Avoid over-cluttering your site and try to use lighter colors. It will make your blog more inviting and people will want to stay longer. 
  3. Pick a topic for blogging. You will want this to be linked somehow to your writing. After all, the point of this blog is to draw attention to your writing endeavors. A lot of writers choose to blog writing tips. Some do book reviews, some do publishing tips, some do a bit of all of these. These are all great ideas, but you'll need to put your own spin on things to set yourself apart. You also want to make sure that it's something that you personally enjoy writing about. Otherwise, blogging will become a chore and you'll end up closing shop after a few months. Not a good thing. 
  4. Be personal and personable. Like I said, put your own spin on things. Let your personality spill through. If at all possible, put your picture up on your blog so that people can have a visual of who it is they're reading. The more of a connection you can make with your followers, the better. Not only do you want to show people who you are and what makes you you, you'll also want to make sure that you keep the focus on them. Be pleasant. Respond to commenters, write about things that others will find helpful. Be a pleasant, helpful, intelligent person and you'll do fine. 
  5. Dedicate. If you're going to do this blogging thing, you have to go all in. Pick how often you want to write (twice a week, weekly, biweekly) and decide what day you want your posts to publish on. This will give your followers something to look forward to. You want them to be able to think: "Oh, yeah, that blogger posts every Wednesday! Today's Wednesday. Wonder what he's writing about." Once you've decided on the day and the frequency, stick with it. If you want writing to become your job, you have to treat it like one. Do or do not. There is no try. 
  6. Be confident. So maybe you're a young writer. Maybe you're middle-aged but haven't published anything yet. Or perhaps you're older and feel like you're behind the times. You are going to be tempted to write things like, "Now I'm young and have a lot to learn...I've never published before, so take this with a grain of salt..." I see this done often and it hurts me. Do you know how to write? Do you have a brain that works? Then you have just as much of a right to blog as anybody else. Your followers are coming into your house. They want to know what you have to say. It's up to them to decide how intelligent your posts are. Do not undermine yourself. You are a good writer. Don't think you are. Know you are. You want a platform? Alright then. Get out there and fight for it. *battle cries* 
  7. Follow and interact with other bloggers. That's right. You're going to have to socialize. Hey! Stop running away and come back here. It's not as scary as it sounds. I know a lot of writers, myself included, are introverts. But you can't just build a blog, sit back, and expect people to flood in. It's not that easy. Besides, you don't want followers. You want to build a network of supporters. People who will follow you through Azkaban if you asked them to. The only way to do this is to support them back. Follow people's blogs, leave comments, share on social media. There are lots of great writers out there who are fighting to make it in the publishing world. They can't do it alone and neither can you. So join up. Give yourselves a team name. Fight crime and...oh, wait. We're talking about breaking into the writing world, not vigilante activity. They have a lot of similarities, though, right? 
  8. Optimize for social media. Keep your titles short and straight-forward. Writing your posts in list format is great. They tend to get more shares because they're easy to skim. Make sure all of your posts have a cover image with the title of your blog post and your blog's link or logo. This will make it more noticeable on Pinterest and Google+. I recommend PicMonkey for this because it's easy, quick, and free. Never be afraid to leave a note at the end of your posts, suggesting that people share your article. Just reminding people can go a long way. 
  9. Grow a thick skin. You're going to get comments from people who are jerks. Maybe not right away, but it will happen. Just ignore them and keep going. Show the world what you can do. 
  10. Be willing to fail. Your blogging efforts won't be perfect. You're going to mess up. Maybe your blog will glitch or you'll notice a massive error in one of your posts. And that's okay. It happens to all of us. Why do we fall? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up again.  
At this point you are either feeling very hopeful or very stressed out. If you're in the latter zone, please don't freak out! Everything is going to be okay. Take a deep breath. Go get some tea or coffee. Eat some chocolate. It helps. Then come back and jump into your platform building. But remember this: 

Have fun. 

When you start getting stressed, find a way to get back to what you love: Writing. Don't let your desires for publishing shut down your writer's spirit. You are a writer first, then an author, then a platform-builder. 

If you have any questions about platform building, I'd recommend reading this post first, since this article is piggybacking on that one. If you still have questions, leave a comment below or feel free to send me an email. I'd be more than happy to clarify points or give you extra tips if you need them. That's what I'm here for. Well, that and throwing around nerd quotes. 

What do you think? Do you have any points to add to this post. Leave your thoughts below! If you're new to the blogging world, don't forget to let me know. I love connecting with new creatives. 

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23 comments:

  1. These are awesome tips, Hannah!

    And I know a lot of people won't agree with me on this point, but I'd say: Don't blog ONLY to build a platform. Blog because you love it. Blog because you have something to say. Blog because you love to write. If your blog is clearly something that shrieks, "FOLLOW ME BECAUSE I WANT TO GET FAMOUS!" you won't attract genuine followers.
    (Oh, and there isn't anything wrong with blogging to build a platform in and of itself, but when it's obvious that the person doesn't care about their followers, but rather the numbers, it screams unprofessionalism.)

    When I started blogging, I did it because I wanted to share my faith via writing, and it has also helped me to build up somewhat of a platform. But I wasn't thinking about the follower count or reader-count as the end goal. Now, if I do end up writing a book, it'll certainly help me, but that isn't why I blog.

    (Also, I don't mean to judge anyone AT ALL; this is just my opinion!)

    I love your blog because it is so practical and amusing at the same time. Your posts are captivating and draw readers in. :) Keep up the good work!

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    1. YES. I agree with you, Amanda. If you start a blog just to build a platform, it will be difficult to keep it from being self-centered or feeling like a drag. Blogging should be something you genuinely enjoy doing. This kind of goes along the lines of what I often talk about in my posts: You need to have a reason for writing that goes beyond commercial success. Writing (blogging included) is a powerful tool that shouldn't be used at random.

      Thank you so much for pointing this out. I really appreciate the insightful comment!

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  2. Great post, Hannah! Just what I needed to get a little motivation going. :)

    I'd add, too, that you shouldn't be afraid to present your own, unique take on writing subjects. This is something I'm always afraid of doing. But it's ok, someone might not understand something and your unique view of it might help them.

    And yes, your "quoting" adds such a light, freeing atmosphere and lifts the pressure of being perfect. So good for this girl. :)

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    1. Yay! I'm glad it helped. I agree that you shouldn't ever be afraid of giving your take on a subject, even if it's unpopular. It's how you grow as a writer/individual, and it also inspires others to start thinking for themselves. Nice comment!

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  3. Hi Hannah! It's great to see you do another one of these posts, because the original one is what inspired me to get into blogging! I definitely agree with Amanda in that you should blog because you love it. I started my blog, mappingsoulswithwords.wordpress.com, to keep myself accountable for writing at least a little bit every day, but now it's blossomed into a project that I love to work on independent from my original writing goals.
    I would also say that doing features like book reviews is super fun. For one, it has gotten me back into reading in a super big way that leaves me accountable. Also, it has brought tons of traffic to my blog. Book bloggers are a huge, active community more than willing to support a budding writer.

    Thanks so much for the inspiration in another great post!

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    1. That's good to know abut the book blogging community! I'm not very plugged into that area, but I've always wanted to be. Off to brainstorms some ways to jump on in. =D
      I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

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  4. Great post! Very insightful and had a few tips I hadn't thought of. Love the Loki reference :)

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    1. Thank you! I'm always happy when I can fit a Loki reference in. =)

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  5. Good list. I really like #10... no matter what you do, compete perfection isn't going to happen 100% of the time. Not freaking out about it is important. Also, love the Batman quote :)

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    1. Exactly. I'm something of a perfectionist, so that's one I'm constantly struggling with. But Batman always pulls me through. =D

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  6. So helpful and so true! And who doesn't enjoy the nerd quotes?

    On a similar note related to platform building, do you have any tips for sending out newsletters? I've read that they can be beneficial, but I haven't the slightest idea how to go about them.

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    1. Ah. Newsletters. I do a monthly one using MailChimp (http://us12.campaign-archive2.com/?u=10e715b67bda50f235781104b&id=8d07b615b8). They are awesome, so I'd highly recommend using them as your host. I'm fairly new to it, and I know my newsletter probably isn't very conventional, but here was my thinking for creating a newsletter:

      I thought about all of the things that people have found interesting on my blog. People always want me to recommend books, so I decided to have a "book recommendations of the month" section. People like staying updated with my noveling/publishing efforts, so I write a little about that. And, of course, people want writing tips and nerd references, so I do that.

      Basically, find what your audience seems to want the most and give them that in a higher dosage in your newsletter. My blog I has 1 book of the month, so my newsletter has 5. I give sneak peaks of writing tips in my newsletter way before those same tips hit my blog. I'm not sure if this helps at all....?

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    2. This is very helpful actually. I'll have to look into what my audience likes and what they want, but I appreciate the tips on where to start. Thanks!

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  7. This is great. I especially agree with #6. I run a creative writing workshop, and I think having confidence in your own talent is the biggest struggle for young and older writers alike. I have a big sign hanging on the wall of the classroom that says "No Disclaimers" in English and Hebrew. (I live in Israel.) When they share their writing with the group, they're not allowed to preface it with, "It's not so good," or "It's kind of silly," or anything like that.
    By the way, I loved all the geeky little Easter eggs. That Batman quote is one of my favorites.

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    1. That is so cool, Tamara! It's great that you're able to teach other writers to have faith in their writing. Also, it's awesome to have a fellow writer way over in Israel. *waves* =)

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  8. I love your pointers, Hannah. You sure sound like you've got no trouble staying on top of things - and that's awesome! I think anyone in need of advice on starting a blog will find your post tremendously helpful. Nicely done :)

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  9. Hi there!
    I'm 16 and a Christian fiction author, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate your blogging tips! I've been loving reading other young Christian authors' blogs, but I am at a loss of how to keep my own blog going. I feel like I don't have anything to say, and I can never get a post out annually (forget weekly or even biweekly! Once a month and I'll be doing good.) To be honest, I really don't like blogging, but I want to learn how to do it, and have a chance to connect with readers and other Christian authors. Also, since I'm self-published through Xulon Press, I feel it's even more important for me to build a support base. I love how people can be so fun and personable on their blogs, but I feel like I don't have that tact. Do you have any specific advice for someone like me? My blog address is ceylangunduzbooks.blogspot.com. If you get a chance to check it out, I'd love tips and critiques!
    Thanks so much! Again, keep doing what you're doing! I am so grateful to find support from other writers!

    God bless you!
    Ceylan

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    1. Hi Ceylan! Sorry for the late response. Here goes:

      Go you for getting after it and publishing so early. If you don't enjoy blogging, it might be that you don't enjoy writing about your current topics. It seems that you post a lot about biblical topics, which is great, though I know from experience that those posts tend to take a lot longer because it's important to get them right. You might want to consider less stressful topics...What is it that you enjoy talking about with your friends? Book characters? TV shows? Find what you enjoy and then connect it with your writing genre or themes in your book. Try writing posts like that for a little bit and see if it's more enjoyable. Also, if it's more enjoyable to you personally, then it will be be easier for you to be more personable, which you mentioned that you have a hard time with. So I'd try that. I hope this helps! Let me know if you have more questions!

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  10. This is a great post!! Point #4 was a huge epiphany for me about a year ago. Especially this: "Not only do you want to show people who you are and what makes you you, you'll also want to make sure that you keep the focus on them." You have to be a real person, but at the same time your blog isn't about you... it's about your readers! Applying the same thinking to my Twitter account has also really helped me.

    #5 is where I still struggle. Not because I'm not dedicated, or because I don't WANT to blog (daggonit!), but because I still haven't found a workable routine that allows me to consistently post while upholding all my other commitments. >_> I keep having to push blogging to the side because of my job, small business, and of course writing, which is always more important. BUT I WILL FIGURE THIS OUT. I will. *adopts intense game face*

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    1. Yes, #5 is so darn hard. It took me forever to find a good time to sit down and write blog posts, and my schedule changes each semester to accommodate college. It's very annoying. I'm sure you can do it, though. *waves pom poms*

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  11. Hey, I've been reading your blog for about a month now, and though I am not currently writing ya, I find your tips extremely encouraging and your articles entertaining :) I am also interested in building up a community, especially as the type of writing which I am most drawn to (literary and romanticism) has been heralded as "dead" by other writers of the genre. Your blog about not conforming to the writing trends I found most encouraging on this point; I know my husband, my sister-in-law and I are not the only ones who miss the classics, but I don't know how to go about finding like-minded writers and readers with a similar endeavor. What's more, we live on a fairly tight schedule, being homeschooling parents, and are, for the moment, unable to get internet for financial reasons, so beginning and navigating a blog seems a bit intimidating...I'd really be interested in your advice as to how to begin the community-building process.
    -Amanda

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    1. I'm so happy to hear that you've been enjoying my blog, Amanda!

      I was so excited to read your comment for several reasons: I personally love literary and romanticism literature. My bookshelves are full of classic, classy literature and many of the movies I watch are 1940's films. I always find myself wishing that modern authors would some how revive that certain type of literature: thought-provoking, entertaining, classy, and with a moral compass. =)

      So I applaud you and your idea of writing in that genre. I don't believe it's dead, and, even if it is, I know that writers who have a passion for it can bring it back. So go you!

      I saw you just started up a blog, which is the perfect start. Now, in order to build a community of like-minded readers (and, through that, convert others), you want to start branding yourself. If you can get on social media, that's great. The lack of internet may make it difficult, but if you can do it, branding yourself on there would look like this: Take pictures of all the pretty classics you read. Quote passages. Ask others what their favorite literary novel is. Mention homeschooling adventures to keep it personal. Basically: go classy and a bit retro (unless retro not you...in which case, don't). That will draw in a lot of the correct audience.

      Taking a similar approach on your blog would be helpful. You can write posts analyzing what makes a good character, pulling from classic novels. You can talk about what makes romanticism so alluring. You can talk about any issues you see in the modern fiction area. Things like that.

      Also, you'll want to add a "subscribe by email" to your blog. So that I can sign up and read your posts. =) I'm so excited to see where you take this. I love the idea of focusing on bringing back the greatness of literary fiction. Keep chasing after that goal. It is a good - and attainable - one.

      Also, kudos to you for homeschooling your children! As a former homeschooler, I can say that it's one of the coolest things that can happen to a kid.

      Your heard work is inspiring. Thank you so much for the comment, and forgive me if my response is too long. I get excited when I see other writers who are working to inspire and help through their stories.

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  12. Thank you for all your helpful suggestions! I'll start implementing them my next trip to the library :) and thank you, especially, for the encouragement. I know this is the direction I'm supposed to go, whether or not I ever attain the rags to riches dream, and it's wonderful to know that someone will take something from my writing. And you never have to apologize to me about a long comment; I tend toward the verbose, myself, and I am extremely interested in whatever you have to say!

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