Tag Archives: slow blogging

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?

 

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The Craft of Blogging (6) Why be a Slow Blogger?

I’m a slow blogger and proud of it. Why? And what is slow? The term has been borrowed from the Slow Food movement. Slow food is the opposite of fast food. The work of growing, harvesting, preparing and eating is lingered over to preserve the qualities of the food. It’s seasonal, eaten as close to the source as possible. Carlo Petrini started it in Italy in the late ‘80s, reacting to deaths from adulterated cheap wine and the proposal to site a fast food outlet near the Spanish Steps in the heart of Rome. It is now an international movement with local Slow Food groups all over the developed world. Here’s a quotation from their (indigestible?) Manifesto:

Against the universal madness of the Fast Life, we need to choose the defence of tranquil material pleasure. Against those, and there are many of them, who confuse efficiency with frenzy, we propose the vaccine of a sufficient portion of assured sensual pleasure, to be practised in slow and prolonged enjoyment. (Slow Food Manifesto 1989)

125 slow food logoWhat is slow blogging?

Slow blogging applies the same principles to a blog: practised in slow and prolonged enjoyment. First it means not posting every thought and idea, not treating it like twitter. Raising the number of hits is not the goal. The emphasis of slow blogging is on the quality of what is being written and on people getting something from reading it.

Slow blogging also has a manifesto, by a Canadian, Todd Seiling, in 2006.

Slow blogging is a rejection of immediacy. It is an affirmation that not all things worth reading are written quickly, and that many thoughts are best served after being fully baked and worded in an even temperament. (Slow blogging Manifesto, item 1. 2008)

However, unlike the Slow Food movement slow blogging has no organisation. Todd Seiling makes it clear that the manifesto is his, and we can write our own. He does not appear to have posted recently, which is fine if he feels he has nothing to say. The blog’s strapline is

It happens when it happens.

Why is Bookword a slow blog?

Books are slow. I mean the actual hold-them-in-your-hands and turn-the-paper-pages kind of books. Books are slow …

  • in conception
  • in writing
  • in production
  • in publishing
  • in absorbing or reading
  • in their influence.

Bookshelf DSC00106I accept that some aspects of E-books are also slow. But one of the virtues that kindle-owners relate is that you can get books anytime anywhere. This depends on the internet connection I imagine. But you get the idea. Quick. Quick! On a book blog, if it’s worth writing and worth reading, it’s worth mulling over. So I post every five or six days. In blogging terms, that’s slow.

Some slow bloggers advocate writing only when you feel like it. But I like the discipline of a schedule, a pattern to my posts – even if readers are unaware of them. I have to ensure I have enough time to mull over what I want to write. That explains why I am constantly rewriting the schedule – ready with one post, not far enough along with another. This one’s on time.

Snail: Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Snail: Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

. . . and two other thoughts

First, slowness is no guarantee of quality, of course. Some things are spoiled by over working (soufflés for example and other dishes involving eggs).

Stopwatch by Wouterhagens (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Stopwatch by Wouterhagens (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Second, the bots that mindlessly roam the internet are the antitheses of slow blogging. They infest blog in-boxes with messages like larvae, or stains, wherever they go. Knitters: think moths and you have the idea. Thank goodness for Akismet which saves me from thousands of the blighters. This blog is not a vehicle for cut-price rip-off handbags, sports shoes, and dubious medications.

A last word

Being a slow blogger does not prevent me from checking my statistics every day. I may go slowly but I want readers and comments. I believe that these depend upon the quality of the posts. But is there a connection? What do you think?

This is the sixth post in an occasional series on the Craft of Blogging. Please visit the first 5 posts:

  1. The medium
  2. Types of posts
  3. A checklist for blogposts
  4. Why do it?
  5. How I write my blog slowly

 

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

The Craft of blogging (5) … How I write my blog slowly

We all blog in our own way I’m sure, but writing a blogpost for me is not very different from any other writing: fiction, short fiction and non-fiction. I know that I need to think about purpose, audience and my main points. And I need to draft it and revise it and revise it again several times. This post is for bloggers who want to think about the process of writing a good post.

People who know me will not be surprised to read that I plan ahead. I have a flexible schedule for my posts that currently takes me to mid-November. I have recently learned that I am a ‘slow-blogger’. This means that I only post about every 5 or 6 days, not every day. (For more on slow blogging you could read the NY Times article: Haste, Scorned: Blogging at a snail’s pace.) Apparently the normal pace is to post every day. I don’t think I have bookish things to write every day. I’m going for quality on this blog. And sometimes I need to write the damn things!

Here is my typical process to write a blogpost.

Stage 1. It starts with a bright idea.

I keep a bright ideas file. Sometimes the ideas for a topic are triggered by events: for example the centenary of World War I was the original idea behind my next post on women war poets. Or I might just get an idea when I’m out walking. Or I read a book I would like to tell people about.

114 ScheduleStage 2. Scheduling.

I usually have two or three posts on the go, the closer to scheduled publication date the more advanced the post. I try to include a book review about every three weeks or so, including one that features older women in fiction every two months. The next one of these is on the schedule for mid-August: All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville West. Some posts are scheduled to coincide with events: such as the publication of our book. It’s mostly very flexible, so I can respond to things quickly, even if I am a slow blogger.

Stage 3. Scavenging.

As the publication date approaches I collect material: my own notes on a book, a review I have read, related articles, links, leaflets, and I often jot down notes on scraps of paper which go into the files.

Stage 4. Now comes the writing.

I usually start with a rough outline based on the main points I want to make. Then I draft the post in full, revise and revise and revise. And I decide on the tags that I will use to attract a readership to the post. If I am writing collaboratively I will often have noted the main points during a conversation. For some reason these often happen on a train. I send the draft to my collaborator and she returns it with revisions and so on.

114 ResearchStage 5. Researching.

I like this stage. It’s like scavenging but with more purpose. I often need to take photographs for the post: book covers, poppies, places associated with my topic. I look for links, other reviews, relevant articles, associated websites. This activity often runs parallel to the writing.

Stage 6. Final polish.

I read the piece aloud, check for directness, humour, opportunities to be generous where I can (this is a feature of blogging I especially like), where I need to avoid being too clever. I am looking for the hook, the call to arms. I’m using the checklist I described in a previous post in this series: my checklist for blogposts.

Stage 7. Publish and promote.

I press the PUBLISH and subscribers receive an email alert of the new post. I also use Twitter to promote the new post. Then I check on Google Analytics for number of times the page is read. It’s hard not to be addicted to those Google Analytic stats. Even harder to keep away from the real time stats.

77 laptopStage 8. Respond to comments.

Another pleasure is reading responses to the blogpost. Some are from loyal readers, others from blow-ins (That’s not intended to be a rude phrase). The thousands of spam comments are filtered out by a widget, thank goodness.

So lots of planning, outlining, researching, redrafting and revising. Just like any other writing. And to finish here’s a summary of Olivia Fine’s wise advise – Essential Blogger’s Tips from the British Library website. (You can find the link to the full version here.)

  1. Be yourself
  2. Address the reader
  3. Keep it simple
  4. Include pictures
  5. Can you skim read it?

Have any of you bloggers noticed you do things differently? Do you have any comments on my process. Any tips for me or others?

 

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Filed under The Craft of Blogging, Writing