Wednesday, September 10, 2008

ON BLOGGING SECRETS


"Communication works for those who work at it.
***John Powell




What are the secrets to a terrific blog? You read blogs—you’re here, right? And you probably write them. Have you ever thought—this is fun, but is it worth it? And now, Jungle Red Writers bring you to the guru.

Dani Greer—you know her from the Blog Book Tours Yahoo! Group, a peer support group, now has 125 author members learning to arrange their own virtual promotions. (Four member tours are underway in September including our own Roberta’s Asking For Murder tour.)


But did you know:
She was once a Blue Ribbon Expert for Martha Stewart OmniMedia?
English is her second language? Her red accordion has mysteriously vanished? She feeds 22 cats... homecooked meals? She knows how to use a real scythe?

She’s also got websites and all kinds of resources for bloggers and would-bes--but she's here today and tomorrow to impart her wisdom in a special Jungle Red visit!

HANK: So nice to see you here! Thank you. You're unquestionably the knower-of-all-knowledge about everything blog.

How'd that happen?

DANI: ROFLMFO (rollingonthefloorlaughingmyfannyoff)! I have no idea how it happened, except through my enthusiasm about them. Several years ago, I didn't even have a blog. Not sure I even knew what one really was.

In fact, I remember my first blogging experience. Ann Parker (http://www.annparker.net)and/ I went to the Women Writing the West Conference and we agreed to blog the event on their brand-spanking-new blog
(http://womenwritingtheest.blogspot.com/).

We were both clueless!

Ann had her laptop, and I was technologically stunned by my first digital camera, too, but we managed to bumble our way through. It didn't take us long to get the hang of it, despite the fact that I'm a techno-idiot and Ann wasn't much wiser in the ways of blogs.

We soon realized it really wasn't rocket science. Most importantly, I quickly realized that blogging is one of those dynamic tools that has unbelievable advertising potential, and it's better than cheap.

My former life as a self-employed artist has trained me well to always be on the look-out for the best promo tools which means some combination of best cost and most effective results. Blogs perfectly match those qualifications - free and viral. But, you have to learn to use the tool well. That's what the Blog Book Tours group is all about. (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/blogbooktours)


HANK: Bet you're not a techno-idiot anymore! And more about that in a minute. But "Learn to use the tool well," you say. Yup, that's what intrigues us all. Sometimes I read blogs that end with a thud. Are there tricks to keeping readers interested? I know, after thirty years in TV, the value of a "tease' or a 'promo', and of course, the value of a good old contest. It's not just about writing an interesting essay, right?


DANI: Not a complete idiot anymore. You learn a lot clicking every live link you can find. One must be fearless when it comes to discovering virtual worlds!


Interesting essays count big-time on a writer's blog, too. Every fan wants the "back story" behind that latest book. But a nice mix of long and short, funny and serious, guests and excerpts, jokes and photos, history and current events, posts with a natural flow from day to day, will bring readers back to your blog. Yes, of course, contests draw participation. That's the number one way to get a lot of visitors fast.



You also have to set-up your blog so it's easy for your fans. Have a bookmarking button, for example. A way for fans to email you. A great blogroll of blogs just as hot as yours that somehow expand on your blog's focus.



My favorite and most obvious trick for getting readers? End your post with a question inviting reader participation. It's the favorite trick of The Tarts over at The Lipstick Chronicles and it obviously works. (http://thelipstickchronicles.typepad.com/ http://thelipstickchronicles.typepad.com/> ?)




The tease? I would suggest you tweet about it over at Twitter (http://twitter.com/ http://twitter.com/> ). I've doubled my hits since I started posting teasers and links to cool sites. I tweet about everything including Roberta's blog book tour. I'll be tweeting about our conversation here, too. Tweet-tweet. Do you suppose your fans are wondering what tree I fell out of right about now?

HANK: Oh, we're devoted fans of Lipstick. They're amazing. And talented. (I'm just saying.) And yeah, Twitter. You and I have to chat about that. I'm afraid I have a bit of twitter-fear. But I know you can cure me. But let me ask you--for me and all your fans. Where are you? Where are you from? What do you do when you're not giving advice to the blog-lorn?


DANI: I'm smack in the middle - Colorado to be exact. Hubby and I are self-employed artists who make art for churches. We're currently finishing stained glass for a new church on the High Plains and painting iconography for an Eastern Orthodox Temple in Colorado Springs. Writing about it, too, of course, which is how I got into the writing world to begin with. Middle-age has put me in serious career-shift mode. So I started focusing more on writing than on my art. It's been a slow and rough process for me. Some days, I'm not sure I even enjoy writing.









I also knew after my first writing conference that I wouldn't be headed down a traditional publishing path, nor would I promote a book with the usual live book tour. I'd have to find another way, a better way for me, and that's part of why I learned (am still learning) about blog book tours, and all the related virtual tools. Really, with environmental and energy issues, not to mention the economic downturn, I think most authors will have to find smarter ways to promote their new releases.

In today's world, a two-week blog tour and a week on the road in one's immediate region makes perfect sense. In a few years, we might have to skip the live tours entirely. Times are changing, and the publishing industry right along with it.


HANK: What's the biggest mistake bloggers make? Okay, the two biggest mistakes?

Oh—sorry gang. We’re out of time for today! Dani will be back with more tomorrow!

21 comments:

Roberta Isleib said...

oh wow Hank, if that isn't the perfect teaser!

Dani, welcome. Dani is truly amazing. She is so helpful to anyone who follows her list rules (tee hee) and shows an interest in learning. As Hank and Dani said, I'm in the middle of a blog tour now. Dani worked me into a brainstorming fever, thinking of all the different angles in ASKING FOR MURDER--such as psychology and cooking.

If you're interested in blogging and blog tours, Dani's website and yahoo group is a must!

Jan Brogan said...

Hi Dani,
Welcome to Junglered. Wow, what an education and I'm jumping over to your website and yahoo group -- NOW.
I couldn't agree more with your basic premise. I don't know how many times I've come back from a personal appearance somewhere and thought: There HAS to be a more efficient way to market a book!

Lillie Ammann said...

Dani,
I have carefully avoided Twitter because I spend so much time online already. How much time do you have to commit to get such an increase in blog traffic?

Anyone know why I can't subscribe to the feed for this blog? I keep getting an error message.

Helen Ginger said...

Well, Hank! It didn't take you long to master the teaser.

Virtual book tours do seem to be the wave of the future. Not necessarily easier, since a lot of preparation goes into it, but definitely cheaper!

I'm so glad you asked about Dani's personal life. I had no idea she did the stained glass work. That was a gorgeous picture!

©Hotbutton Press said...

Twitter is probably less time-consuming than any of the communities including Yahoo!Groups. I check in three times a day and leave a couple of posts and most always with a link to somewhere like http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com - the new editors blog I started to drive traffic to individual sites. I confess that Twitter has kept me from putting more attention into GoodReads and MySpace. I have accounts at both, but they are definitely more complicated and time-consuming than Twitter will ever be. I've already tweeted about this post so we'll see who jumps over.

Okay, I'll pop back over again to see if anyone has questions.

Thanks, Hank!

Dani

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Lillie...Hmmm....the feed for the blog.....

Help, Dani! Do we have a feed for the blog?

And yes, Helen, I agree! At some point I reailzed I had no idea about the real Dani. So being a reporter, I jus had to ask.

Laura said...

Dani, I love all the great advice on your group--you give so much personalized help!

I can't wait to hear about the mistakes bloggers make. I worry because I don't get many comments.

Hank, you're diabolical! (And I mean that in the nicest way!)

©Hotbutton Press said...

Oh, and about bookmarking buttons. I like the one at http://www.addthis.com because it's nice and neat and easy to install. Always place it up high, top right or left is best. So it sits in the corner of your eye while reading a post.

Feed widgets are also important for folks who use an aggregator to keep track of new blog posts on a gazillion fave blogs. People actually know what these things are and how to use them.... even if you don't.;) My theory is, don't ask questions, just make it easy for your fans.

Dani

Lauri said...

What a wonderful giving person this Dani is- thanks so much! I am waiting to find out what bloggers do wrong. I'm new to this game and I'm happy for all advice.

Emma Larkins said...

I love the line about the mix of things you should have for a good blog - that sums it up perfectly for me. And definitely points to a lot of things I need to improve!

Sandra Parshall said...

Hi, Dani--

What kind of hit numbers do you think writers should aim for? Obviously, not every blog is going to have 1500 hits a day like The Lipstick Chronicles. How do you know when to declare your blog a success (or a failure)?

Chris Redding said...

I have learned more from Dani than I ever knew I needed to learn about promoting online.
She's a goddess.
cmr

groovyoldlady said...

tweet, tweet!

Somehow I find the the thought of high energy, tweetable Dani weilding a scythe a bit terrifying. :D

Marvin D. Wilson said...

"Oh—sorry gang. We’re out of time for today! Dani will be back with more tomorrow!"

OK THAT'S DIRTY POOL! LOL

Fun interview - I've been working under Dani'sd tutelage just for a few short months and following her advice, tips and leads has literally transformed my blog from (well deserved) obscurity into a well-trafficed spiffy blog. It is interesting to get some background on her.

Good job, both of you - I'll be back tomorrow {-:>

Marvin D Wilson
Blogs at: http://inspiritandtruths.blogspot.com/
eye twitter 2 - http://tiwtter.com/Paize_Fiddler

©Hotbutton Press said...

How many hits per day.... I think 100 a day is a good starting goal for any new blog. We're up around 50-75 hits most days at The Blood Red Pencil group blog that isn't a month old yet, so that's certainly attainable. You have to promote though. Buzz and tweet at all the online places you hang.

Groovy, little known fact here.... the less energy you use with a scythe, the better it works. Really. Sharp blade, slow and gentle swing. Watch for critters though! And people who don't snip their posts.;)

Dani
http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com

Sheila Connolly said...

I was coveting scythes at a flea market just the other day--there's something ergonomically appealing about the curves. Unfortunately I have no grass.

You make excellent points about what makes a good blog and what keeps people interested, but how do you get them there in the first place? Isn't it kind of chicken-and-egg thing? You blog to get exposure so people will read your books and seek you out, but no one is going to come looking for you until they've read your books and know a little about who you are. How do you lure them in?

©Hotbutton Press said...

You have to cyber-schmooze as Liz Zelvin would say. Hit all the online communities and mention in casual conversation that you've blogged today about... blahblah. For example, I directed people over here by posting about this interview at:

Twitter
Blog Book Tours Y!Group
MurderMustAdvertise
Writers Weekly
Socknitters Forum
My address book
Blogs I commented on

Tomorrow my Localvore group will get a notice, and Friday I'll post over at Book in a Week, too.

If I really practiced what I preached, I'd be posting over at MySpace, Ning, and GoodReads. But, alas.... you get the picture though. You can't be shy, but at the same time, be a bit subtle.

Another thing we haven't mentioned is mailing lists. Susan Wittig Albert has a huge one and publishes the most gorgeous eLetter ever. Like clockwork. You know she sells books through it. And through her blog at http://www.susanalbert.typepad.com/lifescapes

She really has her online advertising act together.

Dani

L.J. Sellers said...

Dani has enriched my online experience in so many ways! She is a great inspiration and resource.
Lj

Maryann Miller said...

Really appreciated this blog and getting to know Dani better. I am still in awe of how fast she learned the techno side of this connecting and widgets and all that stuff. I'm way behind. :-)

And Sheila can come to my place with her scythe. I have lots of tall grass along my pasture fenceline that my machete won't take down. Seriously dull machete.

Susan J Tweit said...

As always, Dani, I learned something new - thanks for tugging us all with you into the brave new virtual world! I've got a new book coming out next spring, Walking Nature Home, a memoir about love and life, and nature as healer and community. Am I thinking about a blog book tour - duh! Am I going to join your yahoo group? Yup again, right after I finish book promotion events for the current book, which has me on the literal road all month. (Check out the "Four book-signings, four towns, four days" entry on my blog for a look at the joys of being on the road. . . .) Thanks for the inspiration, Dani!

©Hotbutton Press said...

Susan didn't leave her link, so I'm going to because she writes so beautifully, and you'll all love her I like do:

http://communityoftheland.blogspot.com

I'm going to try to get to your booksigning in COS! Thanks for stopping here.:)

Dani