Saturday, September 10, 2011

8 Things Blogging Can Teach You

It’s been a little less than six months since I started “The Semi-Great Gildersleeve.”  I’ve posted 30-odd times about topics ranging from the writing process to getting published, from philosophical ramblings on the importance of super-heroes to chapters of my novel-in-progress. I’ve linked to other blogs, I’ve tweeted, and I’ve Facebooked (if that's even the right term).

So, what does it all add up to?

What have I learned from blogging? And what can blogging teach you, should you decide to start one (or even if you already have)?

1. Patience. It takes time to build an online platform.  A knowledgeable friend recently told me it takes a year to build an online audience.  With that in mind, the next thing I've learned is . . .

2. Gratitude. It's gratifying to look at your stats and see "hits" checking out your blog on a regular basis.  Not all of these "hits" may be regular readers.  Some may have discovered your blog by accident.  Some may be spambots.  But at least there's a reasonable expectation that SOME PEOPLE know you're out there and some of those are interested in what you have to say.    

3. Understand User-Tracking Tools.  Still a work in progress for me!  Back in May, I posted Google Analytics' source code (if I even have the terminology right) onto my blog.  For a few weeks, it tracked traffic, and then, after June 13, it showed my blog had flatlined, even though I knew it was receiving hits.

It turned out that GA had changed its code and you had to copy and paste the new code onto your site.  (Someone recently told me you have to paste this code onto every page!)  This is still a learning process for me, but it shows the tools that are out there to help bloggers grow their audience.

4. Find the right image. We're a visual culture, and readers expect to see something other than text when they log onto your site.  If you're a struggling writer like me, you can't afford to pay royalties for clip art, so sites such as Microsoft Office are a Godsend. 

The six-figure silhouette I’ve used for some of my novel chapters has turned out to be a perfect fit!  Each silhouette could easily represent a member of the Power Club's eventual lineup.  (Guess who's who!)  

On the other hand, it can be frustrating and time consuming to search for just the right image.  Some images have been selected for comic effect, others to create a sense of mystery.  A few have admittedly been a stretch. 

5. The benefits of networking. If you want people to visit your blog, visit theirs.  This is not as mercenary as it sounds.  Reading other blogs is rewarding – particularly writing and publishing blogs.  I’ve learned a lot through sites such as Wordplay and A Newbie's Guide to Publishing.  Interacting with other bloggers creates an all-important sense of community.

6. Know what your readers want.  I'm also still trying to figure this one out.  But it helps to have a target audience.  That is, don't expect the Whole Wide World to beat down virtual doors to read your blog.  Target readers who have the same interests you have.  My blog is geared toward writers -- particularly first-time authors who are serious about becoming published.  

But this blog also exists to promote my own work and to build a buzz for my novel-in-progress, The Power Club™.  Sometimes I feel that the two goals at cross-purposes (after all, my target audience for the novel is YA), but it's gratifying to see so many hits on my novel chapters.  

7. Begin. Just Begin.  Though I created this blog in 2009, I didn’t “launch” it until March of this year.  Why?  I had no idea why I was launching a blog to begin with – it just seemed to be the thing to do (which is never a good reason to do anything).  Even after I joined a writers’ group and learned the necessity of building an online platform, it took months for me to overcome inertia and dive right in.

But I’m glad I did.  If nothing else, I’ve learned the most important lesson of all:

8. Taking chances is worth it.


Dave Whitaker said...

Greg - I'm with you on your comments. I've got two blogs going now, but am still finding my way. I'm realizing that while a blog can be a valuable tool for building an audience and promoting one's work, the best thing a blog does for me is keep me actively writing.

Greg Gildersleeve said...

True, Dave. Having a "regular gig" motivates me to write, as well.

Kristi's Book Nook said...

I started Kristi's Book Nook because I wanted to share my favorite kids books. I didn't know that it would become so popular. I even created a newsletter that my followers read every month. Fun stuff Greg. You will gain followers by visiting other blogs and tweeting. Have fun!

Greg Gildersleeve said...

I have a ways to go before I meet your level of popularity and dedication, Kristi. Thanks for posting.

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