Tag Archives: Craft of Blogging

The Craft of Blogging #10 Reuse Recycle Reduce

Let’s do a good thing with our blogs: Reuse Recycle Reduce

202 RecycleBy their natures blog posts share three characteristics: they are written quickly, include connections to other internet sites and have brief lives. You may feel disappointed when a post in which you have invested time and effort no longer gets attention. One way around this for the busy and productive blogger is to use the principles of recycling – a nice case of what’s good in the real world being good in the virtual one too.

Why reuse or recycle?

Why would you reuse or recycle material? Haven’t your devoted followers read the content before? How do pick items or content to repost?

Apparently about 10% of your posts go one being read, are ‘stayers’ or ‘sticky’. Do you recognise this from your blog stats? Looking back over 200 posts I can see which the stayers are: mainly book reviews, including some surprising ones. In the six months since I posted a review of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock, for example, it has never been out of the Bookword’s monthly top 20 most popular reads. Another is The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen, a lovely book and my review was one of the first I posted. Neither needed any promotion on twitter to maintain their readership.

Most of the other 90% can be categorized as ‘decaying’. Again, if you keep track of your stats you have probably seen the pattern of early popularity followed by descent into very small or nonexistent readership. And some bump along with a very few reader each month, not quite decayed. I predict that this post on recycling will fit that picture.

What to choose?

202 recycle 2Among your blog’s decaying posts will be some that you may want to reuse in the same form or to recycle the material with revisions:

  • perhaps the topic is good, but the content needs tweaking,
  • perhaps there is a special event that could suit a post’s reappearance,
  • you may want to introduce a post to your new readers,
  • perhaps you just thought it was so darn good you want to publish it again,
  • or perhaps you feel the post would do better with a thorough revision.

I have now posted more than 200 posts and over the last few weeks I have been considering which ones could be scheduled for recycling. On the whole I have chosen posts that did well initially and have largely disappeared but still get a very few readers. I have also been serendipitous and chosen reviews of books that I am rereading for my book groups.

There has to be something new or relevant about reposting whatever I have chosen.

Some Examples

A post scheduled for recycling in October fits both categories (did well at first, and I have just reread it for a book group): it will be Anne Tyler’s The Accidental Tourist. It is also timely as she has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2015 for her most recent book: A Spool of Blue Thread. The winner will be announced on Tuesday 13th October.

In the near future I am going to revise and recycle a post on Short Stories. I love the form and I have a few new collections to bring to people’s attention on the revised post.

Recently as part of Women in Translation Month (#WITmonth on twitter) I recycled The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke. Such a good book deserves to be widely promoted.

Reusing and recycling posts

202 recycle 3

My schedule for posts extends over the next four months. I have included several recycled posts. If any readers find this annoying please say so when you spot them.

And reduce?

154 BFW

Maintaining a blog can be time-consuming. Recycling can reduce the amount of time you spend preparing posts and reduce the stress of maintaining the flow and high quality. Here’s advice from Robin Houghton’s Blogging for Writers who extends my practice by suggesting recycling material not originally designed for the blog:

  1. You may already have an archive of great content, perhaps you have written an ebook or a course. There’s a lot of great material just begging to be reused! All content can be reused, recycled, revisited, repositioned, and refreshed with new examples and different points of view.

  2. Don’t worry if you don’t have any ready-made material – after you’ve been blogging for a while you will have plenty.

  3. Don’t let a great blog post die – link to it from your home-page (“Popular Posts”), make it sticky or repost in a few months time, slightly updated if necessary. (157)

I could do more of her first suggestion and consider the third. Make it sticky!

77 iphone

Some posts in the Craft of Blogging series

# 9 Problems and more problems (July 2015)

#8 Review of Blogging for Writers by Robin Houghton (February 2015)

#5 How I write my blog slowly (July 2014)

#1 … the medium (February 2014)

 

To receive emails about future posts please subscribe by entering your email address in the box.

8 Comments

Filed under Books, The Craft of Blogging, Writing

The Craft of Blogging: #9 Problems and more problems

I love the daily tasks of blogging: having ideas, drafting posts, researching images, making links, replying to comments and so on. I have been heard to say anyone who can access the internet can easily learn to blog. But recently I have come close to being defeated by some problems, and even thinking, shall I stop? I could stop.

Hacked!

A reader contacted me saying there was a rude message on the blog, a couple of months ago. Whatever they saw (“just below the picture of the books”) didn’t appear on my laptop so it was hard to know what they were referring to. I investigated a little but since the problem seemed limited and was invisible to me I first suggested that it was on their pc and then ignored it and hoped it would go away.

But two weeks ago the message appeared on my iPhone (although still not my laptop), and at the same time another reader emailed me to say that there was something strange on the title. This time I could see for myself that it was offensive, unwanted, sexual and very rude, and likely to put some readers off. It was spreading. Action was needed.

185 laptop macbookIt took some time to work out what to do. I am not naturally technical, or methodical. These two things may be related. I tried to find some source of assistance, a help line perhaps, but as I was away from home it seemed very risky to do anything more than tour the behind-the-screen mechanics of the blog.

Once I had returned home I installed more security, which identified the problem as a corruption of the theme (that is the appearance of the website). With much reluctance I changed it and so the blog looks different, but most importantly the rude message has disappeared.nice work badge DSC00129

And then the Analytics disappeared

No sooner had I solved the rude message problem than I had another problem. Google Analytics disappeared. It has been a useful tool (don’t ask me whether it’s a widget, plug-in or add-on) to monitor readership of Bookword. I have used it to see how many people land on the pages, which pages, how long they spend reading them, the proportion of readers who are first time visitors and where they come from. Since I have done a quick statistical analysis every Monday I can see trends and learn more about how Bookword is received.

138 google logo

For example, I know that book reviews are read as much as other posts but that they attract fewer comments. I know which posts are consistently read over months and months, which ones make a brief and popular appearance and then sink without trace, and how the readership is rising or falling.

Without the daily statistics I have to rely on feedback of a different kind: comments on posts, retweets on Twitter and the number of subscribers. These are useful in their way, but the continuous picture of the last eighteen months has been interrupted, and since I can’t seem to fix it, possibly permanently lost.

And then the bitly disappeared

An added irritation is that the short code, bitly, so useful for tweeting, no longer appears on the post. As a result it is harder to tweet from my iphone with a link, although with a little technical tweaking I could probably make it as easy as it from my laptop, frankly I’m fed up with trying to understand the technical language that explains (not) what to do.

And I don’t like the new theme as much

77 ipadI liked and was familiar with all aspects of the previous appearance of the blog and some aspects of this new one are not growing on me: the display of quotations, the presence of the sidebar on the posts, no bitly display. Again I’m fed up with trying to understand the technical language that explains (not) what to do. I may change the theme again in the near future.

I do like the fact that the rude, offensive and intrusive message has gone.

Continue blogging?

Waking early this morning, these problems and this post were doing unproductive loops in my head. I began to consider a break from blogging. I would be shot of all problems and the frustrations of the technicalities.

49 blog writingBut, dear reader, I like blogging and despite the distractions all stemming from the original hack, I will continue for now. Not only do I not like being beaten by the pointless and probably random activities of bot makers but I like blogging.

Any feedback would be welcome. And any advice

 

Some related posts in the Craft of Blogging series

#1 The craft of blogging … the medium

#4 The Liebster Award and the craft of blogging … Why do it?

#5 How I write my blog slowly

#7 Finding readers

 

To receive email about future notifications please subscribe by entering your email address in the box.

9 Comments

Filed under The Craft of Blogging, Writing

The Craft of Blogging #8 Blogging for Writers by Robin Houghton

If you are a writer who blogs you might want to consider looking at this book. Robin Houghton published Blogging for Creatives in 2012. I referred to it a few times in earlier posts about blogging. Now we have a version specially for writers: Blogging for Writers: how authors and writers build successful blogs.

154 BFW

What’s it about?

It covers some of the same ground as the earlier edition, including retaining some of the important considerations about blogging. For example, Robin Houghton asks writers why they might want to blog. What’s in it for the writer? She notes that before the internet most writers found it hard to get any kind of readership. They had to get through the almost impermeable barriers created by the complications and demands of publishers. Today it is different, Robin Houghton observes.

On your blog, you are the publisher – you are in total control of what you put on it and how you present it. You could use your blog to try out new ideas for writing projects, asking for comments, or calling for contributors. Or perhaps you will post sample chapters, or work-in-progress, or write about the writing process, or about what you are reading and what is influencing your writing. Blogging gives you the potential to reach out to a worldwide audience. (8)

She may exaggerate the group function of a blog when she suggests that yours could become a kind of online writers’ group, ‘a place where you can draw support and inspiration throughout the ups and downs of what can essentially be quite a lonely occupation’. It’s an ideal, and I expect there are places where this happens. But it is not guaranteed.

What are the qualities of this book?

Blogging for Writers shares many of the qualities of its predecessor. It is updated and is more specifically aimed at writers and their blogging needs.

145 old handsIt is very good on the step-by-step processes of setting up a blog, especially for people who don’t warm to technical stuff. It’s not that technical in Robin Houghton’s account, and it’s well illustrated so you can see what should be happening and what other writers have done on their blogs. It is as attractive as many handicraft books, good colour photos and no assumption that you know what is meant by a widget or a plug-in.

It’s also good on the craft of blogging – what makes a brilliant post (headline, topic, photo, length, readability, etc); types of post (lists, interviews, reviews, stories, polemics, etc). And it is realistic about how to manage the practicalities of planning and maintaining a blog. On frequency and length of posts, for example, she has some useful things to say, but is not prescriptive. Instead she suggests the advantages and disadvantages of different pratices.

She’s helpful about how to get your blog noticed, and to keep things going. One of the traps for bloggers is addiction to statistics. She suggests thinking of them ‘as indicators rather than absolute measures’, helpful in setting goals – if you like that sort of thing. And she suggests the tools that can help.

I make no money out of my blog, but I expect that the advice on this is good too.

Throughout the book there are screen grabs of lots of writers’ blogs, and also short quotations about some aspect of their blog.

Do you need copies of both Blogging for Writers and Blogging for Creatives?

154 BFCWriters starting from here would not need the earlier volume. Blogging for Writers is both more up-to-date and more targeted. The examples are especially helpful. I responded to the sidebar that featured Molly Wizenberg and her food and writing blog orangette.

What my blog does is force me to show up. That’s huge. A lot of writers and creative people have said things along the lines of “showing up is 90% of the work,” and that’s certainly true for me. Sometimes, the last thing I want to do is sit down and write. Blogs help us show up, and that’s priceless.

I want my blog to keep me excited about writing. I want it to be a place that forces me to keep writing and practicing, and to be a cattle-prod to me to keep cooking and working. I want my site to reflect what I’m excited about. (161)

I understand this as turning up and writing interesting posts has contributed to my learning as a writer and as a blogger.

Some previous posts in the Craft of Blogging series

#3 My checklist for blogposts

#5 How I write my blog slowly

#7 Finding readers

Blogging for Writers: How authors and writers build successful blogs, by Robin Houghton (2014) published by ilex press. 176 pp

Do you have any ‘how to blog’ books you recommend?

To ensure you are notified of future blogposts please subscribe to email notifications by entering your email address in the box at the top of the column on the right.

 

9 Comments

Filed under Books, Reviews, The Craft of Blogging, Writing

The Craft of Blogging – (7) Finding Readers

Is anyone out there? Is anyone reading my blog? I sometimes wondered, especially when I started, but even after nearly two years I check my blog readership most days. One reason to blog, for me, is because it is a kind of ‘citizen publishing’. So there’s no point unless I find readers.

138 google logoThanks to Google Analytics I know quite a bit about how many people read my blog each day, what they are reading and whether they are new readers or returners. I know that if I write about books, the physical objects, I get many comments. Acquiring books, arranging books, decluttering books, art made from books and books for prisoners – these have always provoked responses. My most recent post on this theme is Abandoning Books, which is still attracting interest.

Last SeptemberAnd I also know, thanks to Google Analytics, that some of my book reviews are ‘stayers’, that is that they are read steadily – every week they appear in my top 10 most-read posts. Occasionally another review will join the standards: recently my comments on The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen became even more popular than the evergreen review of Mrs Palfrey in the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor. Other reviews rise and then fall away again, like Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys.

mrspalfrey greenThis feedback is very helpful to me to understand the blog’s readership. The statistics are useful, especially as I am not interested in simply maximising the number of readers, for this is not a commercial blog. Rather I want to know which posts are being read.

Getting readers

Here are six things I have learned about building readership in two years of blogging.

  1. Quality matters

138 Oblique bookshelfThe advice from successful bloggers is to post quality items at regular intervals. One reason I am a slow blogger is that I want to be sure of the quality of my writing, after all writing is the subject of my blog. Not only do the books I write about deserve good attention but so do the readers of the blog. Sloppy writing on a post can easily put readers off. I have not returned to blogs where I have suffered this.

And good quality posts include interesting pictures and links.

  1. Post at regular intervals

Regular intervals? Well, I am not sure about this. Do they mean frequent? I’ve said I am a slow blogger. I vary posts irregularly between five and six days. I don’t have any evidence that the variation affects my readership. Some people say that there are good days for posting. Certainly I know that the day fewest readers visit my blog is Saturday. But I doubt whether the day of posting makes much difference to bibliophiles.

  1. Have a subscription button

138 subscribeI encourage readers to subscribe at the end of every post. [Have you signed up?] This means that a steady group of people receive notifications of new posts.

  1. Use twitter to promote the blog

I follow and am followed by many more people on twitter than on my blog. Many of them declare bookish interests. I use hashtags to promote blog-related tweets including about my posts and often they pass them on … hooray for social media. The bookish ones I use are described by blogger Paula Read Nancarrow. I also use #readwomen2014 because I like to promote women writers. I blogged about that here.

  1. Use other connections

When I started blogging two years ago I sent all my friends the link via email. I now have an http link in my e-mail ‘signature’ which I rarely remove. Sometimes I send a friend a link to a post I think will interest them. And I do the same with my reading and writing groups. I try to comment frequently on other blogs. After all I can’t expect comments on my blog from readers unless I do.

  1. Other suggestions – websites, wider social media eg Facebook,

You will read advice to get yourself listed on bookish websites that list blogs, and to use other social media (especially Facebook). I am sure these can be useful. Anyway, I think they may be beyond my current technical capacity!

The young Jean Rhys

The young Jean Rhys

Bloggers with large followings: what have you done to promote your blog? What advice do you have to give bloggers who want to reach more readers? What am I missing?

 

If you want to receive email notifications of future blogposts please subscribe by entering your email address in the box at the top of the column on the right.

13 Comments

Filed under Books, Reviews, The Craft of Blogging