10 Things I’ve Learned After 7 Years of Blogging

Today, according to WordPress, is my 7th anniversary of blog writing (nearly 6 with this blog).  I started this blog because I got my first story sale with my short story Death Watch, which was published by the good folks over at Liquid Imagination.  Originally my blog was my website, and though I have since separated the two, a lot of people still find me through this blog.

When I started out, I really didn’t know what to expect.  And seven years later, I still really don’t know what could happen.  But here are at a few things I have learned since starting out.

1 – Getting traffic to your blog is hard.

It took me a long time, a really long time, to gather up any type of blog traffic.  I tried funny posts, writing posts, life posts, and mixtures of all three.  What I learned is the topics don’t really matter, it just takes time to start showing up in search results and for people to come to your blog looking for certain content.  Which leads to number two.

2 – Pick a topic for your blog

Pick a topic for your blog and stick to it.  Does that mean I don’t blog about life? No.  It just means that the general topic of this blog is books and writing.  I love the movies, video games, and hockey.  Sure I mention those in my blog, but I don’t think I’ve written blog posts on those things.  This doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to write on other topics, but you’ll get a better following if your blog has a theme.

There are exceptions to every rule.  My post, Eight Things I’ve Learned Since Moving to Washington is not writing related at all, but it is the only post that gets a hit at least once per day.

3 – If getting traffic is hard, getting a following seems impossible.

For the longest time, my family were my only followers.  It look a long time to work up to a decent following and to keep them following.  There are a lot of ways to get the regular following and keep them, and many of those are involved in these things I’ve learned.  The truth is, no advertising ever worked.  The only followers I ever got were from reading a post of mine and liking it enough to follow the blog.

4 – Losing followers is very easy.

People stop following a blog for many reasons.  The most common, you offended them.  Society has placed a lot of weight on being offended, as if it really means anything.  I’ve lost followers when they found out I’ve got LGBT characters in my novels. I’ve lost followers because I’ve mentioned I own guns.  I’ve lost followers because I made a Trump joke.  You will also lose followers if you don’t blog in a while.  I lost most of mine during my two year hiatus.

5 – You can’t please everyone.

So you may be thinking that you should sterilize your blog from any possibility of offence.  I tried that in the beginning of my blogging days.  Hell, I used to try that in the start of my writing days.  Well, fuck ’em. People will get offended by what you say.  If they don’t, does your writing carry any real passion anyway?  As I said above, people think being offended means something.  It doesn’t.  What I have learned is that more people appreciate the honest writer connecting with his audience than they do a sterilized blog.  You can’t please everyone, so don’t try.

6 – Listen to your audience.

Many of my blog post ideas come from blog comments or my social media.  I’m not saying you need to ask them what to blog about next, though you can a time or two.  But pay attention to what they are saying about your blog.  As a self published author, I noticed many of my readers were talking and interested in that aspect.  As a result, I wrote Self Publishing, a post in which I explored what Self Publishing was all about.  It took more work than most of my posts do, but it was also the most successful post.

7 – Read and connect with other bloggers

You really need to read and connect with other bloggers.  For one, you will see what is trending and discover what other bloggers like you are doing.  This will let you know if the topic you want to blog on is over-saturated or that it is of no interest to anyone.  But also you can work with others to do guest posts and other connections to attract their followers to you and your followers to them.

8 – Guest posts are great.

Guest posts are a great way to drive followers of others to your blog.  For a long period of time I was doing an author focus blog series that allowed guest posts from other authors.  It drove new eyes to my blog that may have otherwise not visited.  Don’t expect a ton of new followers from it, but you just might get someone poking around your blog for other stories.

9 – Don’t expect your blog to be a revenue stream.

I’m not sure I have made any book sales from people who came to read my blog.  In most cases it is the other way around.  People have come here after reading my work.  Some to complain, but most because they liked what they read and wanted to see more.  Also, ad riddled blogs suck to read (of course we have no control over the WordPress ads).  One ad maybe, or sponsored content is okay.  But some blogs read so heavily of sales pitches that they become no fun to read.

Also, don’t overly self publicize on you blog. It isn’t wrong, but it is a fine line between content and advertising.  The point of a blog is to connect with your audience, not sell them shit.

10 – It is okay to blog for yourself.

It is absolutely okay to write a blog for yourself with no aim to gain followers.  You might accidentally acquire a few anyway.  But not every blog has to be for fan connection or to gain more readers.  Some can be for the hell of it.  You can have as many blogs as you like too.  The choice is yours.

BONUS: We’re all full of shit.

Here is a bonus thing I’ve learned, everything on the internet about how to write a great blog is full of shit.  This one included.  What worked for me may not work for you.  Lord knows I read a lot of crap, that when I tried it, did’t work for shit.  More to the point, articles with things I’ve learned titles are there to help you see what was learned.  You can use it, or you can toss it.  The choice is yours really.

It is your blog, write what you want, but I’ve shared what I’ve learned.  Your results may vary.

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10 Things to Avoid Saying to Writers

Just last week while on the internet I saw a meme titled “10 Things You Should Never Say to Writers” posted by Jessica McHugh. It was really funny, and it got me thinking of a few things to add to that list.  So here is my list of Ten Things to Avoid Saying to Writers.

1. I wish I had such an easy job.

AuthorEASY! If it is so easy where are your novels? I’d love to read one. The problem is people assume that all you need is an idea and you’re off to writing a novel. They further assume that proofreading and editing are the same thing.  Furthermore, they have absolutely no idea what it takes to make a readable story.  Saying being a writer is easy is just like my saying being an accountant must be easy.  I really have no clue.

2. Why do you even need to work?

book_moneyOh man, I get this question every time a coworker finds out I am a writer. The way they often say it is as if I have stolen a job from someone who really needs it just so I can pad my pockets. Never mind that I drove to work in a 18 year old van with one working windshield wiper (when I hit the dash just right), with no air conditioning, and leaks fluids that even a mechanic can’t identify.  I really just enjoy working odd hours and tons of overtime just to add to my Swiss bank account.  This ties into the assumption that the arts pay a lot of money. And in most cases they do not.  Just like every actor doesn’t make millions, every author is not selling record amounts of books.  I need a day job just to live on until people start buying all my books, or maybe forever.

3.  Can I get a free copy of your book?

frustrated_writer_200See above, Jack Ass. Do these people go to restaurants and ask the owner, can I have a free meal? Do they go to a dress maker, and ask for a free dress?  Do they ask the dry-cleaner to clean their suits for free?  No, they don’t. Yet they feel compelled to ask me to give away my hard work to them for free, just because they casually know me. And then they get offended when I tell them about my website’s promotions page where they can enter to win free books when I do giveaways. As if they should somehow just get one.  Come on.

4. I’d buy your book but…

handle_criticismThe list of excuses are amazing. And most of them are kind of bull shit if you ask me. The only one I accept is: “I’d buy your book but I am broke.” Because I understand that. I am also broke.  But telling me you would buy my book but you don’t read science fiction, or you don’t read at all, or you’d rather spend your money on movies (really??), or some other excuse is really just slapping me in the face.  Especially if you’re my friend or family member.

5. I’d write a review for your book but I don’t know what to say.

SurveyOh this one really pisses me off. Listen, I don’t care what authors say about not reading reviews and all that other bull. We need reviews on our books to be successful. And when you have read one and you won’t review it, I suppose that is your choice. But don’t come tell me that you won’t write one because you don’t know what to say.  We are not asking for a New York Times evaluation. We just want you to rate the book and write your thoughts about the book down. Do this once and then copy and paste it on Amazon, Goodreads, and where ever else you see the book. It isn’t hard and it means more to us than you can possible imagine.

6. It must be your dream to see them make your book into a movie.

swearing_3421243It is my dream that people READ MY BOOKS, not watch them. The only reason why I would want my book turned to a movie is because it would hopefully mean more people would READ them.  As any avid book reader knows, they always fuck up the movie.

7. I have a cousin’s friend’s uncle who is a writer.

angry-man-clipartOkay.  I never understood this.  There is only one other career I’ve ever heard this done with; and that is police. Ever notice if you mention a cop someone always has to speak up with how they somehow know a police officer. For some reason people need to tell me how they know a writer. And they always say it as if that acquaintance some how makes them an expert. The best follow up question to this statement is: “Oh, what do they write?”  Because they have no damn clue and secretly I like watching hem squirm.

8. I have a lot of great ideas for books, I just don’t have the time to write.

008968716-clock-and-gears-looping-animat-713-57Some variation of this is always on every author’s most hated thing to be told. Sometimes people want you to write their idea and give them credit. But the worst for me is when someone tells me they don’t have time. I work 40-60 hours a week at a day job, publish a magazine, have a family, and still make time to write. It isn’t that you don’t have time.  You don’t have the passion to write.

9. I am not going to wind up in one of your books, am I?

missing-sign-300x225They always say this with some little hint at it being a joke. You’re not funny.  And there is a good chance that background character I just killed off was you.  I killed him because he made bad jokes too.

10. Someday you’ll be famous and I’ll say I know that guy.

And I will tell security I’ve never seen you before in my life.

shrug