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Welcome To SORMAG's Blog

Friday, October 28, 2005

PANEL: Is Blogging Good For Writers

PANEL: Shelia M. Goss, Monica Jackson, Mary Griffith, LaShaunda Hoffman, Brenda Coulter

Come learn about blogging and how its good or not good for writers.

Post your questions in the comments section.

Please read the previous comments before you post, so we don’t have duplicate questions.

Please address your questions to a panel member or all panel members.

25 comments:

SORMAG said...

Blogging - For Fun and your Fans

Shelia M. Goss ©2005 All Rights Reserved.


If you're reading this, you've been introduced to the wave of the future “ BLOGGING.

What is a blog? A blog is the equivalent to an online diary. You can use it to post personal information or useful information (such as this workshop). It can also be used to interact with other bloggers and if you're an author, your readers.

Why would I want to blog? Blogging is what you make of it. It's a way to introduce your readers to a side of you that they can not see from reading a bio on your website or on the back of your book cover. It also gives your reading audience a chance to leave you real-time comments and interact with not only you but also other readers of your books.

How often should I blog? Don't look at blogging as a dreaded task placed on your "to do" list. Blogging should be fun and if you become an active blogger, you'll look forward to posting as well as interacting with others. How often you post is up to you. You can post daily, every other day, weekly or whenever the whim hits. You'll find the more responses you get on your blog posts, the more you'll be inclined to post on somewhat of a schedule.

Is there Blog etiquette? If you'll be away for an extended period of time, just write a quick post, so your regular visitors won't think you forgot about them.

There are times that you may get some unwanted posts (yes, spammers have infiltrated the blog world), so don't hesitate to either delete those posts or set up your blog so posters have to put in a password.

Should my blog have a theme? Not necessary, but it makes it fun. I have three blogs. Each blog has a central theme. For example:

http://sheliagoss.blogspot.com chronicles the life of a writer.

http://myinvisiblehusband.blogspot.com is a place to discuss relationships, books, or whatever else is on your mind.

http://intheknowentertainment.blogspot.com showcases my interview excerpts, reviews and/or information on the world of entertainment: books, music, TV and film

How do I come up with topics? Keep your eyes and ears open. Life is filled with ideas. Some of my topics stem from what's going on in the news or from conversations I've had or observed. Since the central theme on the My Invisible Husband blog is about relationships, it's hard to run out of something to discuss. Take a chance and see what works for you. Blogging shouldn't be difficult. It should be fun. If it's draining, maybe you need to step away from it for a while or come up with another topic. There may be some days you only feel like rambling and that's okay too.

Examples of author blogs:

http://www.princessdominique.com/blog/

http://www.romancingtheblog.com/

http://www.tiawilliams.net/blog/

http://vanthonyrivers.blogspot.com/
Now that I've decided to blog, how do I get started? There are many blog services available to you. Below is a short list of blog websites:

http://www.bloggers.com (The workshop and all of my blogs are hosted here.)

http://www.typepad.com

http://www.bloglines.com

http://www.myblogsky.com

http://www.blogstream.com

Remember keep blogging fun and your readers will enjoy visiting and who knows, you might just get a book sale or two from it too.

1st Assignment: Post your blog web links here. If you don't have a blog, create one.

2nd Assignment: Visit members of the workshop's blogs and post a comment on one of their blog entries.

Shelia M Goss is the ESSENCE MAGAZINE Bestselling Author of My Invisible Husband. With unique storylines, her goal is to create “stories with a twist.” Shelia was the recipient of three 2003 Shades of Romance Magazine Reader’s Choice Multi-Cultural Awards for her debut novel, ROSES are Thorns, VIOLETS are True. Be on the look out for her next novel--My Three Beaus. Her articles, poetry, and short stories, have appeared in National Magazines such as Black Romance Magazine, Bronze Thrills, InnerCosmetics, and Tribes Magazine. Visit her website at www.sheliagoss.com or check out one of her three blogs: http://myinvisiblehusband.blogspot.com, http://sheliagoss.blogspot.com, or http://intheknowentertainment.blogspot.com.

Tempie said...

LaShaunda,
I admire how you have mastered this online conference through blogging. How hard was it?

Could you summarize the steps if one is interested in communicating or setting up a basic training or workshop class blogging?

How long can you keep the info documented on a blog? For an example, how long can I keep the info from this conference?
Thanks Tempie
Badge #151

Tempie said...

Shelia...

Thanks for the great info you shared regarding blogging!
You answered a lot of what I was asking in your posting.


Tempie
Badge #151

SORMAG said...

Hi Tempie,

Girl what you doing online? :)

Would you believe I just start blogging/ Its been about six months. I love it and I enjoy reading others blogs.

I thought it would be great for the conference because in the past I used yahoo forums and its similar to blogging only you don't have all the emails.

I was trying to make it as user friendly as possible. I know there were a few people who couldn't grasp the concept, but most did.

I plan on keeping the conference online as long as I can. Its great information and I believe in sharing.

The blogger system keeps archives for years. I guess when you use up your alotted space, they start deleting.

Thank you so much for being a part of the conference. Your posts made it real and that means a lot to me.

SORMAG said...

Panel,

Please tell us a little about yourself, how long you been blogging and your opinion on blogging.

Shelia said...

Tempie, thanks. I tried to answer questions I had before I became an avid blogger :)

Shelia (#16)

Shelia said...

I've been blogging for a little over a year. When I first started, I didn't know too much about blogs. I did it maybe once every other month, but then I started seeing more and more blogs pop up and began reading blogs on a daily basis, which prompted me to update my blogs on a more regular schedule.

Reading blogs is a great way to break from your normal routine on the computer...because some blogs are very entertaining and informative. I usually read others blogs once to three times a week sometimes more (depends on my schedule).

Shelia #16

Monica said...

Political blogs have changed the face of the way political news and opinions reach people. Bloggers are getting fired from their jobs just for having a blog and being indiscreet. Bloggers influence people and some bloggers have gained notoriety and name recognition from their blogs alone. Bloggers have received high-dollar book contracts solely based on their blogs.

Blogging caught fire with authors in the last year or so. There are group blogs springing up like weeds. I blog as a columnist at Romancing The Blog, a popular romance blog. The list of author blogs on their sidebar has grown exponentially.

Authors blog to interact with their readers in an immediate way, as a promotional tool to gain name recognition and to spread word about their books, to express themselves, and to disseminate information on any topic.

But as many blogs are abandoned as are started. Authors discover that blogging isn't as simple as it seems. It's time consuming and it's tiresome to think of fresh and interesting material daily.

Jennifer Weiner, a chick lit author has a popular and longtime blog that has generated over a million hits. Neil Gaiman, a SFF author, has a tremendously popular blog, as does Wil Wheaton, an ex-Star Trek actor turned blogger and author. Young attractive women who write frankly about their sexual escapades have been awarded publishing contracts, Stephanie Klein, http://stephanieklein.blogs.com/, a New York social type, and Jessica Cutler, who worked on Capital Hill and slept with notables for money and fun, both got healthy six figure book advances.

So, can a blog by a regular, midlist author writing about something other than a varied, skanky, and exciting sex life, make a difference as far as book sales?

I hope so. I started blogging in March 2004. When I started posting more frequently a few months later, my blogging traffic also increased. I now get around 1000 hits a day. I was told by a person well versed in author promo, that as far as selling books, I need closer to 20,000 hits a day to be a significant blogger.

Other than using my imagination to concoct a fantastical and skanksome sex life with a varied assortment of famous folk that I expound on in exciting and lubricious detail several times a day in my blog, I don't see that amount of traffic happening.

As far as author blogs, there seems to be several types. There are the primarily promotional blogs. These offer an interactive forum for readers to learn about the author's writings and books. They are less risky, because if the author sticks on the topic of their books, they are far less likely to offend. Often though, unless the author's books are extremely popular, these blogs because boring and humdrum and traffic falls off. One way to keep these sort of blogs fresh is to reveal characters and setting more deeply, blog about research and other facets of the author's books.

Another type is the topical blog. These are generally pretty safe as far as being inoffensive too. This is where an author keeps the blog on a particular topic and rarely self discloses. A good topical blog is MJ Rose's blog that focuses on general literary promotion--not just her own books. Some of Sheila Goss's blogs are mostly topical too. These can be fascinating and fresh, along with being safe too, depending on the author facility with the topic and level of interest the topic holds for visitors.

The most popular blogs and also the most revealing and self disclosing, are the free-form blogs where the blogger pontificates on whatever is on their mind--books, politics, what they came across on the Internet, facets of their everyday life. These blogs can draw the most traffic, but are by far the most risky and difficult.

First, you have to write quite well, quite frequently and be interesting enough to draw people back. This is harder to do than many think.

To be interesting, you have to be real, have opinions and flava beyond vanilla. You blog about what you're interested in at the moment or passionate about. In that there is inherent risk. Nobody is liked by everyone nor shares the same opinions. If you're interesting enough to surpass blandness, it's inevitable that some (idiots) will misunderstand you, not everybody will like you, and you're going to piss some people off.

Nope, people who are pissed off at you generally won't buy your books.

The upside of this is that this sort of blog will generate more traffic and interest. More people will link to you, more new people are likely to try your books than would with a strictly promotional blog. Another upside is that this sort of blogging can hone your writing voice. . . and your blogging voice should reflect your voice in your books.

This voice doesn't necessarily need to be off-color. My fellow panelist, inspirational Christian writer Brenda Coulter has a compelling blog of this type that wouldn't offend any staunch Christian with its subject matter. And yet people do still get irritated at her opinions and viewpoint, because she's real and interesting.

My philosophy has always been that the people that I piss off probably would be pissed off by my books anyway. My blog tends to be controversial, humorous, off-color and irreverent, but my books are too. You could consider it truth in advertising.

I've had an (idiot) person say I'm against black people and was going to spread the word about her theory, because my blog didn't conform to exactly what she thought a black author's blog should be like. But I've had more people say they have bought one of my books solely because of my blog.

So no, I don't have 20,000 hits a day, but I personally think my blog helps more than it hurts. At least I hope so.

--Monica Jackson
_________________
Visit my blog at http://monicajackson.com

There a free book giveaway going on at my new message board!

Win Donna Hill's fabulous new novel: Getting Hers

Shelia said...

Monica,

I visit your blog at least once a week if not more--because there's always something interesting going on there. So folks check it out, you'll get hooked like I did (smile).

Shelia (#16)

upwords said...

LaShaunda,

I've been blogging since May 2004. I started on blogspot and moved to Typepad. My blog is a little different in that I don't always talk about writing. It's a curious mix of devotionals, journals of my day, talk about my books and whatever is going on in the world. I also tend to blog in spurts--daily for a while, then a couple times a week, weekly and the worst, the disappearances! LOL But my visitors seem to come back. I don't know if I'll keep doing it forever, but both blogging and reading blogs is definitely a part of my life.

Mary Griffith
http://www.MarilynnGriffith.com

Tempie said...

Good Afternoon Ladies...

Again I appreciate all of the great input and info!!! I feel like I have taken my 101 course of Blogging from some of the BEST!!!

Monica Jackson...WOW...great info...I'm going to visit your blog

Thanks Tempie
Badge #151

Robin Bayne said...

I have been blogging for about a year as well, and love to visit other writing blogs.

The problem I have found with them is that author's viewpoints (esp political and religious) come through in their posts. I've seen very radical leanings that in turn affect whether or not I read that author's books.

Anyone else noticed this?

--Robin, # 18

Brenda Coulter said...

Is blogging good for writers? It can be. A writer who blogs can develop better self-discipline (by blogging regularly, whether she feels like it or not), give her imagination a good workout (by posting on varied topics), and offer potential editors and agents a glimpse of her writing personality and professionalism. And certainly the blog of a published author can attract new readers for her books.

But does every writer need a blog? I don't believe so. In fact, the blogs that are begun by writers who think they should blog (because all the other writers are doing it) tend to be the ones that never catch fire and attract readers. The only way to succeed at blogging is to approach it with lots of enthusiasm, plenty of time, and the willingness to learn the ways of the blogosphere. Two out of three is not good enough; not if you want to build a good audience for your blog.

And of course you want an audience. If you didn't, you'd just keep a private journal instead of publishing to the internet. But the blogosphere is not like Kevin Costner's Field of Dreams. If you build it, they won't come. A handful of people may stumble over your blog, but you'll never see any real traffic until people start coming to you from other blogs.

Exchanging links with other bloggers is a good start, but you'll also want to participate in the discussions on other blogs. People will be intrigued by your comments and click over to check out your blog. If they like what they see, they'll bookmark you and come back.

If you're going to blog, you should post entries at least five days a week. (I shoot for, and usually hit, six). If you're a blog reader, you know it's a little frustrating to click over to a favorite blog two or three days in a row and find that it hasn't been updated. Sooner or later, you'll stop bothering to look. And that's what people will do to you if you don't offer frequent posts.

But blogging frequently isn't enough. Your posts must be interesting and original. I've visited a lot of writers blogs that don't seem to have caught fire because they're mostly about the authors' thoughts on their current writing projects. A little of that can be interesting, but remember that better (and better-known) writers than you are already discussing those things. Also, think hard before posting on a "hot" topic that all the other blogging writers are already buzzing about. You'll just look like a follower. Post fresh, original content and other bloggers will link to your interesting posts.

If you've just started blogging or are still considering it, please click over to my place. Ask yourself what you like about it and what you don't, then copy the good stuff, avoid the bad, and build a blog that's as unique as you are. Just remember: If you're not having fun, you're probably doing it wrong.

Brenda Coulter
Dishing daily on "writing, life, and the writing life" at
No rules. Just write.

GenaLGarrison said...

I began bloggging earlier this year but I have neglected it quite a bit.

At first I blogged daily, then I got down to weekly and now I don't think I've blogged in over a month.

It's something I need to get back to doing.

It is the wave of the future and it is very beneficial to writers. It gives the opportunity to write with immediate feedback.

Badge#76

Monica said...

Robin,

I probably feel the same you do about right "radical" leanings as you do leftish ones. It's sort of a turn-off, but I can get past it, because I allow others the allowance of not having the same opinions as I do [it's a liberal thing, methinks, grin]. So I can enjoy blogs of people who support what I may feel are Pharisee-like, evil and misguided political agendas. Different strokes, you know, and why is it my job to set them straight or impose my views on theirs?

Stephanie said...

Great info ladies! Thank you so much for sharing!

Stephanie (#144)

PS: Monica, it was through your blog that I found out about this wonderful conference! :-)

JENNA said...

I wonder...when you're using your blog professionally, do 'blog tag' question games and blog polls (which peanuts character are you) make you seem more relatable or unprofessional?

Jenna - 08

Monica said...

It totally depends on your style. If you're more formal, businesslike and buttoned up and your books reflect that, then yes, maybe blog tags, quizzes and polls are less "professional."

But if you write fun romance or chick lit books for entertainment, maybe you'll want to come across more casual. In that case, blog quizzes, etc. are fine. I think the only rule is that your blog should reflect what you write--or else your readers could be surprised and dismayed, justifiably so.
________________________________

Thanks Stephanie and Sheila!
________________________________

http://monicajackson.com

Shelia said...

Jenna, I agree with Monica. I think it really depends on your "blog" audience. I like to talk about relationships--or anything of the sorts--on one of my blogs...another blog, I strictly post information about what's going on in entertainment.

Shelia (#16)

Shelia said...

Robin, it hasn't affected whether or not I buy the person's book. It lets me see that they too are human :) But I don't know what the average reader feels though.

Brenda Coulter said...

...when you're using your blog professionally, do 'blog tag' question games and blog polls (which peanuts character are you) make you seem more relatable or unprofessional?

Jenna, my blog is about as lighthearted as they come; I've been known to indulge in silliness. But I rarely post memes because everybody does them. By the time you've seen a particular meme on three different blogs, it no longer seems fresh and clever.

As I said before, you won't build a popular blog by being a follower. Put fresh, original stuff in your blog and people will link to you.

Brenda Coulter
Blogging her heart out at No rules. Just write.

Monica said...

I want to briefly post on blog software.

Sheila did a great job listing sites you can obtain a blog. The deal with a blog on a site is that you are dependent on that site's servers and administrators. In the initial agreement, the site may even state in obtuse legalese that it owns your words. A site also can limit customization and flexibility.

For those reasons, some people like the idea of their own blog software on their own web space or server that they control. It also tends to be more flexible and sophisticated. There are plugins available that can do a variety of things.

I've always used blogging software. At first I used MovableType (http://movabletype.org). The database went wonky and I tired of how you had to reload the entire site to change a small thing, so I switched to Wordpress (http://wordpress.org) that I love. It's uses PHP pages rather than HTML and a separate database is needed.

I have to do a little more cheerleading for Wordpress. It's been stable, reliable and I love the features available. I just customized it to match my site and incoporated them together.

If you need hosting, a website, to secure your domain name or other Internet services, be sure and investigate http://domainrooms.com and http://websiterooms.com.

Contact me at http://monicajackson.com/contact.htm if you're interested in a Wordpress blog.

______________________

http://domainrooms.com
http://websiterooms.com
http://monicajackson.com

upwords said...

Robin,

You raise a good point about people's real political or religious leanings coming through on their blogs. I don't talk much about politics, but I am a Christian and sometimes do devotionals on my blog. Surprisingly many of my readers do not share my faith but identify with my experiences. My blog is about showing up and being me, right where I am. That's the great thing about it, there's room for everyone.

Blessings,
Mary Griffith
http://www.MarilynnGriffith.com

SORMAG said...

The panel members are some of my favorite blogs, which is why I asked them to participate in the conference. I try to read their blogs each day. Some make me laugh, some make me scream and some make me cry. I enjoy their voice, which is probably why I enjoy their writing.

Blogging is very time consuming, so you have to know this before you start. I have two blogs, SORMAG and See Ya On The Net, my blog. I tried to update both at least twice a week. I know I should do more often but right now I know I don’t have the time. However I didn’t start out thinking I would have a huge following. For SORMAG, I am trying to build the readership and its growing. My own blog has a few readers.

There are a few blogs, I’ve stopped visiting, because their opinions and mine didn’t agree, but that’s ok because there are always more blogs to read. Did it affect if I’ll buy their books. I don’t know.

For now I’m enjoying blogs and look forward to finding new ones.

Cynthianna Appel said...

I'm involved in about four blogs now (actually five--but the site where one is located is very temperamental so I may give up there).

Actually the first two blogs are "columns" of mine. I don't update them weekly--just monthly. I know it's not going to attract lots of new readers, but these are more "personal" and I promote them in my newsletter.

http://momsday.blogspot.com
http://christianscrawling.blogspot.com

The last two are group blogs and they get a lot more readers... And I don't have to post all the time since we take it in turns.

http://triskelionauthors.blogspot.com

http://extasyauthors.blogspot.com

We'll see if they make any dent in increasing my book sales. (At least they can't hurt!) :)

Cindy #19

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