#1. That I will always click on a post titled “what blogging has taught me” or “blogger confessions” or “blogging life lessons,” even though:
#2 Those posts always say the same fucking things.
So this is not that. I’m not going to tell you to have an editorial calendar or to be consistent or to do guest posts or to use SEO techniques.
Life lessons were on my mind when I was asked to appear on Seen and Heard in Edmonton. The premise of Seen and Heard is brilliant, and will probably take off in other cities before you know it. Karen Unland interviews local bloggers about what they do, and why, and where they’re going. Not only is it fascinating for bloggers, but it’s a great way for people to find local perspectives on whatever they’re into. I’m guest #5. The other four have included bloggers who write about theater, business, food, and history. Seen and Heard also rounds up the best weekly blogs and podcasts every Monday morning, which is just a great way to start the week.
So – what wisdom could I impart to the Seen and Heard audience? I thought back to my biggest blogging moment this year, attending Book Expo America. Then I read this interview with burnt-out mega-blogger Dooce about why she’s quitting:
In 2004-5, I was the first personal website to take advertising. Now it’s why you start one. If you’re doing it for fun there’s nothing to worry about. If you’re looking to make an income, this is not a good way.
I rolled my eyes a lot at the BEA blogger con. So many panels about growing your audience and doing sponsorship and MORE content FASTER… featuring panelists who do not making money from blogging. The only ones making a living either work for Book Riot or spun their blogs into books. I heard “fun money” and “champagne money.” I heard bloggers admit that they were uncomfortable with affiliate links and that they didn’t even make any money from them. And book bloggers burn out all the time due to demanding schedules and publishers and expectations.
What’s the point? If you’re a hobbyist, like the vast, vast majority of book bloggers are, why kill yourself to post weekly, or get all the latest ARCs? Why not post when you want, when you really have something to say? Unless you’re out to make serious money or advance a career in the same field as your blog, none of this stuff matters.
Click here to listen to Karen interview me and to read my list of blogger/podcast recommendations. Also check out the first half hour of the latest Write Reads podcast for more in this vein – Kirt and Tania talk to recently-burnt-out Rick of Canon Fodder/Through the Pages about what’s wrong with book blogging, and I wanted to jump through the computer screen and say “yes!” to all of it.
Okay, one Life Lesson: Whatever you’re worried about when it comes to your blog, no one cares as much as you. Do you think the blogosphere will grind to a halt if you don’t post that weekly meme? Do you think your readership will unfollow and denounce you on social media if you don’t participate in the latest hashtag? I promise you no one will notice. Keep blogging when you can, until you don’t want to anymore. That’s my plan.
Last Sunday I escaped the house and family (kids were napping, don’t pity my husband too much) to talk about blogs with other adults at a Writer’s Corner event. I love Riverbend Library, but usually I’m there wrangling a three year old while wearing a one year old, so sitting in my own chair with only my self to keep track of was BLISS.
Our host, Omar Mouallem, is the Writer in Residence for Edmonton Public Libraries. The panelists are two very successful bloggers, Sharon Yeo of Only Here for the Food and Dave Cournoyer of Daveberta. Neither of these blogs are in my regular rotation, but, I have a lot of respect for them. They are passionate and knowledgeable about their subjects, and they both just seem genuine. They don’t seem to be in it for the social media fame (such as it is in #yeg) or the ad revenue or to get a book deal (not that there is anything wrong with that!) but just really want to write and have an audience for their writing.
The audience of 20 included many familiar faces… most of them familiar from their Twitter avis. The discussion was about “finding your niche” in the blogosphere, but there were plenty of general tips. Here are my favourite pieces of advice:
- Blog post titles should be straightforward. Puns and wordplay don’t come across very well like they might in print. This makes me sad, because I love coming up with clever titles. I don’t always succeed, as this post proves, but a good title helps focus my thoughts and set a tone for the piece. But Dave is absolutely right. I see it in my own stats. Clever titles don’t draw people in. My most popular post to date is one of my Reading Roundups. Nothing fancy there. Which leads me to my next lesson…
- People love lists. Sharon posts a Food Notes list of updates and news every Monday. It helps her be consistent, and provides a valuable service for her readers. I see this on my blog too; it’s not my meandering essays on David Foster Wallace that are getting page views, it’s the Reading Roundup lists and the reviews. The basics.
- The crowd was quite divided on whether links should open in a new tab or replace the existing tab. Things almost got ugly. I think we reached a consensus on opening links in a new window.
- Blog rolls are old fashioned. Does anyone even call it a blog roll? I have a list of blogs and websites, but it’s not always that up to date. Dave admitted he hadn’t looked at his list in a while… or ever, since setting it up.
- Dave suggested using categories and tags to drive traffic to your posts, and that having the tags directly under the title makes it easy for the reader to see what your post is about. If love this one. I often get a little cheeky with my tags, and I can’t run the risk that someone doesn’t see my handiwork! Now if I can get WordPress to comply…
It was a great event. And did I mention it’s FREE? Writer’s Corner happens on the last Sunday of the month, and will be at Stanley A. Milner library from now on. The next one is about travel writing. One of you who actually travels should hit that up…