How to Start Your Blog by Rochelle Melander
Before the advent of blogs, everyone wanted to write a book. Now writers blog in hopes that their online musings will lead to the big book contract. Many have. Julie Powell’s blog led to her book Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously and the movie Julie and Julia. Gretchen Rubin’s blog about testing various happiness interventions led to her book The Happiness Project. And Cami Walker’s blog about giving a gift a day for nearly a month became the book, 29 Gifts.
How about you: do you have a blog inside of you? Are you hoping that your blog about travel, gardening, or raising children will land you a big book contract or a six-figure advertising deal? If you are a writer or author who wants to blog, here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Set your goal. What do you want your blog to do for you? Blogs can:
- inform and inspire your audience
- establish you as an expert
- build your platform
- connect you with loyal readers
- advertise books, programs, services
Think carefully about how you want to use your blog. If you know why you are creating a blog, you will create a better blog.
2. Choose a niche. Most blog and book writers fail because their niche is too broad. A blog that is written for everybody will not appeal to anyone. Far better to choose a niche with a smaller, solid audience. Think about the audience for your niche: what are they interested in? What could you cover that is not currently being covered? Kelly James-Enger, our May Write Now! Mastermind guest, specializes in writing about making money as a writer. In her blog Dollars and Deadlines she writes about how nonfiction freelance writers can “make more money in less time.”
3. Collect your wisdom. Jot down 25-30 ideas for potential blog posts. The best bloggers post regularly—two or three times a week. In order to keep up with this schedule, you need to know that you have enough to say in your niche. Keep a list of potential blog post ideas in a document on your computer, smart phone, or pocket journal. (If you discover that you really don’t have enough to say to make this niche a niche, turn it into an article or a series of articles for other blogs or publications. Then, go back to step one and keep looking for your perfect niche!)
4. Study the market. In February 2011, there were over 156 million public blogs. No doubt you will have competition for your blog. Search for blogs in your niche at Technorati and Google Blog Search. Study what the top bloggers in your niche are doing. Note what they do well. Pay attention to blog style: how is it different from magazine or book writing? Consider how your blog will be both different and better. Can you go deeper into a specific topic within your niche?
5. Design your blog. Blogs do not have to be fancy to be effective. Plenty of good blogs use canned templates from Blogger or WordPress. As you design your blog, keep these tips in mind:
- Think about font size—keep it big enough for everyone to read.
- Provide a picture. We want to see what you look like!
- Tell us who you are. This lets us know why we need to pay attention to you.
- Give your readers a way to contact you via email or Twitter.
- Include social sharing tools so that we can easily post your blog on Facebook and Twitter.
6. Post! Don’t be one of the millions of bloggers who creates a blog and then leaves it up to rot. Create a weekly posting schedule and then post. Remember, a short, interesting post every week beats a long post every three weeks!
Need some additional help? The website Copyblogger offers helpful tips for bloggers. I’ve also found a great deal of information in Chris Brogan’s book Social Media 101.
What has worked for you? Writers, I would love to hear what worked for you. Leave your comments and a link to your blog below!
Rochelle, I just started my blog last week. After a year of thinking about it and reading hundreds of others blogs, and studying what others were saying about it, because I knew when I started blogging, I had to blog on a consistent basis. I also will not blog over 500 words; it takes the pressure off me to write and others to read. Blogging also gives you a place to practice your craft! Thanks for more insight.
“I’m not a writer.” That’s what I keep telling myself despite all the writing I do for my work or in personal journaling. Rochelle, thanks for this tip. You’ve starting to crack open a door of interesting possibility. Anyone can become a writer just like anyone can become a runner, right?
Great new blog, Tammie! I love it. And Karen, I look forward to seeing what you write! 🙂
Thanks, Rochelle! I’m learning a lot!