14 January 2012

A Writer's Guide to Successful Blogging, Part 4

Remember this series? Thought it was time for another installation. If you missed the previous posts, it's not too late to catch up. So far we've discussed the overall theme or subject of your blog, time management tips from Dean C. Rich, and the important detail of live links.

Today we'll be talking about some important things all writers need on their blogs (besides blog posts, obviously).

Subscription options

Note I said optionS, plural. Occasionally I'll come across a Blogger blog where the only option to subscribe is to follow with Google Friend Connect. That's okay, but it's not enough. I follow that way, but to be honest, I rarely look at my blog list when I sign into Blogger. I sign in to post on my own blogs, then I log out. I like to subscribe to posts via email, and also occasionally using feeds. Every reader is different, so you want to make sure you have plenty of options for each of them.
  • Google Friend Connect (for Blogger blogs)
  • RSS, Atom, or other feed services (in Blogger, go to Layout, click add a Gadget in whichever sidebar/area you want it to appear, and then select Subscription Links)
  • Email - in Blogger, this uses FeedBurner to deliver your posts via email to subscribers (follow the same instructions as above, but select the Follow by Email option)
Email

You should absolutely have some sort of contact info on your blog. You can put in on a separate page/tab, or you can add it right on your homepage (see mine? top left corner). At the very least, this offers readers a chance to send you a "love your blog!" email if they so desire. But think of this: have you ever had trouble commenting on someone else's blog? I have. Blogger especially has a tendency to be picky about comments. One of my readers who couldn't comment on my blog dropped me an email to let me know she appreciated one of my posts.

What if someone stumbles across your blog and wants to talk to you about a guest blogging opportunity? Or what if an agent/editor/someone who you'd just die if you missed the opportunity to hear from wants to get in touch with you? You never know when someone will need to get in touch with you through some method a little less public than a blog comment, so go ahead and put up your email address.

Privacy concerns? Of course, that's natural. You can set up an alternate email address specifically for your blog, then connect it to your regular email so you can check both at the same time. Or if you use Hotmail, like I do, you can set up an email alias - it's not a separate email account, just an alternate address for my existing account. This way I don't have to worry about checking a separate account.

One tip: to avoid as much spambot mail as possible, put your email up as such: YourEmail[AT]provider[DOT]com or some other way that disguises the fact that it's an email address to anything but a human reader. I didn't do this at first, and after the tenth or so email about getting my degree or ordering high quality replicas of whatever, I changed it.

Social Media buttons/widgets

Do you tweet? Have a Facebook fan page?  Belong to some other social site you'd like your readers to know about? Check with each site and/or your blog host to see if there is a button or widget you can add to your site that will direct your blog readers to those locations. Twitter, for example, offers a few different options. You can have a simple button, or you can have a widget that displays your most recent tweets.

Remember, it's all about making it easy for your readers to keep up with where you are and what you're saying.

Post sharing options

This seems like a no-brainer, but I've seen plenty of blogs that don't have this. If someone likes your post enough to share it on Facebook, don't make them open a new tab/window, sign in, copy/paste the link into their status and hit send. If they're in a hurry, they might not share at all. With share buttons, it takes a fraction of the time to post a link to FB, Twitter, or any other number of sites.

In Blogger, you can access this by going to your layout, then clicking edit in the box where your blog posts go. Check the box for "show share buttons" and you're all set!

"My Writing" section

If you're published, have a dedicated place on your blog to show off your work. If you have books for sale, you can put the covers and links in your sidebar. You can have a separate page or tab that lists links to anything you have published or available for purchase.

If you're NOT published, don't worry. If you feel so inclined, post a few paragraphs as a sample, or include blurbs for what you're currently writing or querying to agents. You can also not do this. It's up to you.

All of these features will help your readers find and share your content with ease. There is one last thing I want to mention, and that's comment moderation options. Everyone has their own take on this, and reasons for why they do what they do, but here's my two cents:

I don't have comment moderation, I don't use captcha authentication, and I do allow anonymous comments. I want my blog to be a dialogue. Why would I put up any barriers for people who've taken the time to read and then leave a comment? You might get a spam comment now and then, but they're easily deleted (I haven't had one in quite some time. Blogger's new spam filter is pretty good about catching them). I don't moderate comments partially because I don't want the hassle of having to approve them all, but mostly because I kind of hate when other people use it. I hate not knowing if there are additional comments before mine that I'm not seeing because they haven't been approved yet. Those comments might say something interesting that I'd also like to respond to. I also like to keep up with the conversation on a post I take time to comment on, so I'll click the box to subscribe to follow-up comments. If there are four comments in the queue before mine, I'm pretty sure I don't get notifications for those, so I won't know to come back and check the discussion unless someone comments after me.

That's my opinion on the issue. You'll do with the comments what you think makes sense for you. But as for the other things, I hope to see all those features next time I visit your blogs, if they aren't there already.

Are there any other features you think are must-haves for writers who blog?

3 comments:

  1. I completely agree with you about not putting up any more barriers after people have taken the time to read and comment. A lot of my willingness to participate in online discussions is ease. I'm unlikely to work for it :)

    I used to have a section with a summary of my work-in-progress, but I took it down. I realized that I'm just not the kind of person who can go public with something that's still very rough. Someday when I have actual publications to talk about it will be a different story :)

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  2. P.S. It seems that you do use captcha. Someone complained about that on my blog and I don't know how to turn it off.

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    1. Oh wow, thanks for pointing that out! I swear I never did before. I kinda feel like Blogger messed that up when they started with their new (and ridiculously difficult lol) captchas. I'll have to go in and turn it off when I get to a computer.

      I discovered (when trying to find it on my dashboard for another blog) that you have to revert back to the old style dashboard and then find it under settings.

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