Monday, July 26, 2010

Blogging advice and info from Diana's client Carole Brown


Carole, when your agent, (that would be me) asked you to build a platform by beginning to blog, you were brave and did so. In the last year or so you have been faithfully blogging, interviewing and also have managed to fit into your schedule writing and editing your novels as well as honing your skills. By all appearances it seems you are enjoying the blog experience.

Were you scared at first to jump into blogging?

Of course. Anytime a writer has to open up a little bit of their heart or their self to others, it’s risky business. You’re exposing your dreams and hopes and thoughts for the world to see. But as much as a writer would rather stay in their shell to write and sell tons of books, there’s another (not as well liked) side. Marketing, and blogging is part of building a writer’s platform.

For those that have yet to join the blog biz, please share with our readers how you first began.
I began with little knowledge and in a very general way. I’d heard about blogging, that it was necessary for a writer. If that was the case, I knew I’d better get moving. As I explain later on under another question, my first attempt was mostly about me, with a few friends and family reading my blog.

Eventually, as I studied and read other blogs, mine began evolving. I’ve tried different things through the years. It took me awhile to find what works for me, what I felt God wanted out of my blog. Right now, I’ve settled into a routine that I like. I’m blogging three/four times a week.
Sundays: a devotional type of blog with a quote or scripture and a picture. Short, sweet and to the point.
Mondays: I give a short list of things I’m thankful for. I hope to do this until I reach a thousand gratitudes. If you want to know more about this, find out where the idea came from, check out: http://www.aholyexperience.com
Wednesdays: interviews with giveaways, reviews, or something writing related.
Fridays or Saturdays: fun stuff. A story I’ve read. Something I want to say. Maybe a guest blogger. Whatever.
I’m also beginning this month (I’ll see how it goes. Smile) a mini contest that I’m calling a “What is it? Day” contest.

I’m still learning and picking up hints of what works and what doesn’t. I’m not afraid to change something on my blog if it will make it better.

One other thing: I’m also hoping to develop a specialty blog (with a friend). That’s a blog that dwells on one certain theme. Because I bring in abused situations in many of my novels, and my young friend has a degree in counseling, we think we’d be a good match for something like this. But we want to get it right; to have a blog that is unique, helpful, and powerful for those who are in, who have been in, or who knows someone in an abused situation. We are praying for direction.


Do you read other blogs? Is this a help to you?

Oh, my, yes! If I’m going to ask others to read my blog and become followers, then I should do the same. So usually once a week, on my blogger dashboard, I scan through all the blogs, check out different ones and try to leave comments of encouragement. How does this help me? Friends! I love friends. Smile. I encourage them, and hopefully, they’ll return the favor.

I’ve also learned not to be bashful about asking for followers. If I like a new blog I discover and want to become a follower, I invite that blog’s owner to return the favor. Normally, it works.

I noticed that you offer contests and giveaways. Are they a popular aspect of your blog?
Well, it draws the most comments, so I’d say they’re pretty popular. Who doesn’t want something free in this economy? Plus it’s a little something I can give back to those faithful enough to stop by my blog.

If you were to say on a scale between 1 and 10 the joy you receive from blogging what would it be?
I smiled on this one. There are times when I might rate it as a one, but for the most part it hits the top of the scale.

When I first started, blogging was all about ME. What I thought, how I felt, my happiness, my discouragements. But once I moved on, quit trying to find new topics about myself, then it became more enjoyable. I love sharing information and encouragement with my followers and visitors. Also, I’ve recently been accepted as a reviewer with The Suspense Zone which means I get plenty of suspense/mystery books to read and review on my blog (plus other places) for my readers’ benefit.

On the same scale what would be the amount of work you have to invest? Has the amount of work diminished as you have developed your blogging skills?
Yes and no.

Because I chose to do interviews and reviews, it takes some time to contact (usually several emails) interviewees, set up dates, remind them that I need their answers to the questions, download pictures, etc. I save their pictures and their answers immediately after they respond, then when I have a few minutes, I can get on blogger and set up the interview. I love it when I can do that ahead of time.

Contests too take up time; especially when I run one of my own. Contacting those offering gifts, getting their information so that I can give them back a little bit of marketing exposure, email follow-ups, mailing out the prizes (which are usually multiple); well, it all takes time.

But both of these are avenues I decided to pursue on my blog, for my readers, so it’s well worth the time to me.

On the plus side, I’ve learned how to navigate the blogger scene a little better. I’m always on the lookout for interesting and helpful items to include on my blog. I also now prepare several blog posts at once, which saves me a ton of time. I have things pre-prepared for my blog posts. Sometimes I will do the nitty-gritty stuff for a post I want to do, but don’t have the meaty portion (or a picture I want to use) yet, then save it to complete later. I’ve picked up tricks on how to accomplish my posts quicker and more efficiently, so on the scale, with 10 being the most hours, I’d give this between a four and six.

What do you hope your readers take away will be from reading your blog?

I want them to ENJOY the five/ten minutes they spend there. Whether that is by:
laughing over some funny article or comment
being inspired that life really is lovely,
having a moment’s respite from their problems,
feeling encouraged to buy a book from a fellow writer, or
taking a second to worship God,
I hope I’ve given them something to make their day a little brighter.

What surprises have you been 'blessed with through blogging?
Two things come to mind:
Meeting new friends. I love comments and the contacts other bloggers and I have together.
Seeing and enjoying the generosity of others.
Let me give you some examples: one of my followers shared how I could receive free books by reviewing for a certain publishing company. Several writer friends (bloggers) offer books, services and other items for free gifts when I have my own contests, and, finally, we can pick up news, items of interest, and special tips on lots of things.

Are there any cautions you can mention for the blogger to be aware of?

Maybe two:
It can be addictive. (Smile) There are so many fun, interesting, entertaining and wonderful blogs out there in cyberspace, it can quite devour a person’s life. Balancing your time is a necessity!
When you do begin a blog, watch for any comments that would be inappropriate. This doesn’t always happen, or even often, but it can.

Has this experience of blogging been a help to your writing? and if so in what way?
YES! Besides writing experience, it’s helped me to discipline myself even more with my time. I live such a busy life that I have to use my time wisely.

Do you network with other bloggers and how does that work?
We share information with each other.
We can advertise each other’s special blog posts.
There are certain blogs that make a specialty of advertising contests, and they are valuable for those of us who have interviews and giveaways. They, in turn, find out about lots of new books.
I occasionally like to have a special blog to “advertise” certain people, their work, their books, even blogs.

Do you see blogging as a ministry as well as a marketing tool? What would you say it has meant to you in the best sense?
Definitely. Ministry is serving, being helpful, aiding. It’s a little something I can do for others that will hopefully aid them in some manner. I say this modestly, but one of the attributes ascribed to me from people who really know me is my caring heart. I care about people. I like to help. Blogging is a small ministry that lets me to do what I can do well.


Please take a moment and share with our readers your additional thoughts on blogging.

A necessity for a writer or anyone who needs to market. I think it opens you up to readers, lets them share a little of your life. If you’re published, readers need to see YOU. When you blog, readers need to see YOU. When I check out my favorite author’s books, blogs, whatever, I look for their picture, for their bio. It makes them human and accessible to me even if I never talk or meet them.

For example:
On the Hartline Blog, each one of the agents shows a little bit of their personality whenever they blog. Their topics, the way they present the material, and their pictures give us a glimpse into their lives, what they like, what makes them tick. It makes the agents accessible to us. Nothing that is intrusive, of course, but we subconsciously realize they are real. Does that make sense?

One more thing. Even a general blog is good, but if you are blogging because you want to market yourself or your product, then pray and choose a center theme. That’s not to say, you can’t vary your posts. But the basic, overall key to your blog is . . . say, suspense. That sets the tone for what you need/want to market. Readers can have fun or a laugh at certain posts, but they won’t forget that you are serious about promoting your suspense books if you key your colors, the objects, lots of topics with suspense in mind.

Make sure you tag your posts.
Invite guest bloggers. New material!
Connect your blog with other social outlets.

Can you share with our reader a few of your favorite blogs?
Oh-h, that’s a hard one. Here are a VERY limited list of some of my favorite blogs (for various reasons):

Hartline’s From the Heart (I like this one because every one of the agents is polite and knowledgeable: have you heard of them?)
http://goteenwriters.blogspot.com (a wonderful place for younger writers to spend time and learn.)
Jeanette Levellie always has fun, interesting blog posts. http://jeanettelevellie.blogspot.com
If you like travel or want to do some minor research, try: http://karenrobbins.blogspot.com. She’s been everywhere! Seriously. Check out the list of places on the right side of her blog.
A good place to check out is Roseanna White’s blog (http://roseannawhite.blogspot.com) where she talks about historical and contemporary things, interviews authors and holds giveaways. Also in the right column is a link to a review site that is an excellent reviewer of books: http://christianreviewofbooks.com
One other blog that is unusual and very interesting (to me) is Cindy Thomson’s “Celtic Voices.” http://celticvoices.blogspot.com
One other I might mention is Tamara Kraft’s blog (http://revivalfire4kids.com) where she deals with a lot of children’s information such as books, contests, materials, workshops, etc.

Thank you Carole. I am sure your experience will help those that have yet to jump into the blogging waters, and that those blogging have been encouraged by your experience. And be sure to stop by and say hello to Carole at http://sunnebnkwrtr.blogspot.com


Well dear writer, get blogging- as we saw here, there is much to be gained in friendship, ministry and writing skills.

From my heart to yours,
Diana

23 comments:

Jeanette Levellie said...

Wow, you covered it all, Carole! What an excellent interview, and full of wise advice.

Thanks for the plug on my blog, too.

Since I'm a humor writer, I use as much humor in my posts as I can, and I offer lots of giveaways, mostly books. Once a year I have a huge office product basket prize, as a thank you to my followers. That's a popular item, since writers love office products!

And I'm a member of Networked Blogs on Facebook, so my posts automatically show up on my page.

I've made many friends blogging, and when my books are published, I have a growing list of eager customers.

Blessings,
Jen

Jeanette Levellie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
writer jim said...

Carole,
I'm impressed with your helpful interview, and all your dedicated hard work. I'm sure God will bless your efforts.
For some reason, as I read your answers, I was moved to email Diana today with something we have corresponded about in the past.
Thanks Carole.

Normandie Fischer said...

My, oh, my. My agent (Terry) also suggested I blog. But, Carole, you've opened my eyes. I think I've been stuck in the what-do-I-write-about stage (also busy with the boating/sailing blog, which seems to take up most of my non-novel-writing energy). So, I looked at yours, then I looked at Jeanette's, which linked me to others, and now I'm feeling exhausted. Someone want to come blog for me?

Excellent post. I suppose I'll figure this out someday...or not.

Blessings,
Normandie
www.writingonboard.blogspot.com
www.seaventure.us

Jeanette Levellie said...

Normandie: Don't be intimidated,dear. I'm sure Carole will agree, it took us time and much trial and error to get our blogs where they are today. As Diana says, by "baby steps," You add a gadget here, you visit a blog or two there, you ask someone how to add wallpaper, and so on. Like anything worthwhile, it builds up gradually. Like Rome.

Follow the leading of the Lord, and don't go in a ditch of fear.

I went on your blog and I think it looks great!

Jen

Caroline said...

Oh, yes, it takes time. Very few people have all the answers when they first start. Just start, and work from there. Three short posts a week is good!

What do you write about? Do you bring your sailing passion into your books/articles? Then devote one day or more a week to writing a short post about that.

Small tidbits are more interesting and less time consuming for you & the reader. Plus it gives a pull to return. :)

Anything I can do to help, let me know. :)

Blessings, Normandie!

Caroline said...

Jim, I'm so glad my post encouraged you! Blessings.

Jeanette, you're very welcome. I wouldn't have included you if I hadn't meant it, dear friend.

Patty Wysong said...

I loved this interview. =]
When I started blogging my life took a turn and that's when things became even more of an adventure. What a journey it's been! And that's one of the things I love about blogging--it's a journey you take. You don't need all the answers when you start blogging because your blog changes and grows with you. It's a great place to experiment and play and "try things on."

Blogging taught me consistency while helping me find my what I really like writing about. It started as a place to practice my writing (and still is!) and grew into ministry. =]

And you're so right about it being addictive! =] Blogging and fiddling with my blog is one of my favorite ways to procrastinate. LoL

Great interview! One I'll pass on to new writers that don't think they need to blog. =]

Roseanna White said...

Great interview, Carole! I always enjoy my visits to Sunnybank Meanderings--and am honored to be on your list of recommended blogs!

Linda Glaz said...

Wonderful interview, Carole, and also, you are such a faithful blogger follower. You're awesome. Even when I just know a particular blog isn't as good as it should be-ugh! you still find something encouraging to say. Well done!

Kathryn Neff Perry said...

Carol,
This is a terrific blog. I'm so proud of you! You are an inspiration to all of us!! Thanks for letting me know about this one.
Hugs
Katt

Great Lakes Romances said...

Carole, thanks for all you do for writers on your blog. You are a great blessing!

Donna Winters

Millie Samuelson said...

Marvelous blog insights and comments! Maybe it will be just what I need to finally start blogging, and soon. . . my plan has been to start this fall. But reading this BLOG made me want to start sooner. I'd start this week, but family is here -- so maybe next week. . . Thanks so much for your inspiration, Carole, Diana, and the others who've commented. Blogging blessings! :-)

Kathryn Page Camp said...

I enjoy reading Carole's blog, and I enjoyed the interview, too. I'm still looking for my blogging focus (partly because I'm still not sure who my audience should be). But I'll get there if I keep reading such good advice.

Sue Harrison said...

Carole, This is very encouraging. Thanks so much! I am so new at blogging and have so much to learn. You offer wise ideas and HOPE!

Mary Ellis said...

Great advice, Carole, on blogging, of which I can use since I'm still new to blogging. I'm learning as I go and having fun along the way. thanks. Mary Ellis

Cindy Thomson said...

Very good advice, Carole. I think blogging and reading other blogs is very interesting. On mine (and thanks for mentioning it) I get to write about things that might never make it into my novels. At first I thought it would be a chore, but it's not. It's fun and I'm glad others are enjoying it.

Connie Cameron said...

Oh, dear. I have been ignoring that nudge to update my blog, but now I can't ignore it!
Thanks, Carole and Diana, for a great interview and for interviewing so many of us!

Stephanie Morrill said...

Carole, I think you're right about blogging being addicting. I have two and contribute to a third. I'm regularly amazed by how much time it all takes!

Sally Bayless said...

Hi Carole,

Great advice! Thanks so much for sharing. I'm just dipping my big toe into blogging and really appreciate your insight.

Sally Bayless

Linda Wichman said...

Carole,

You, lady, are an apple of gold! Wonderful suggestions for successful blogging and the importance of networking, especially in the writing community. May God continue to bless you and above all, your wise gift of words!

Elaine W. Miller said...

Great information. I just returned from Montrose Christian Writer's Conference where four morning sessions were taught on blogging. It gave me the boost and the confidence I needed to blog. Carole's post summarized it all. Thank you, Diana, for encouraging us to blog. It improves our writing and is a great marketing and ministry tool.

Donna Alice said...

Chiming in late - excellent interview with Carole! Great advice too.