28 June, 2007

Blogging for the busy writer/illustrator: an article by Damaria Senne

Last year this time I decided I was finished with blogging. It was an interesting experiment but it was too much work and brought too few returns. So I quit. Weeks later, a colleague sent me a quick email to say my blog was getting stale. He was looking forward to the next post, he said. I hadn’t promoted the thing (still learning how it works, no time) so I thought my blog was like performing to an empty room. I didn’t realize that over time, fans were filling up the seats. My colleague was not even the reader I thought would be interested in my folktales and parenting adventures. But there he was, a single White man in his early twenties, newly graduated from varsity; neither a parent, creative writer, school teacher or librarian. He liked my blog enough to give me a kick in the butt when he thought I was slacking on the job. So I took my chastised self back to the stage and started telling him more stories. I even began to enjoy the experience, once I got into the rhythm of it. GETTING STARTED The reason I’m telling this story is to make the point that writers and illustrators who are initially sceptical of blogging can make it work for them too. Also, you can get over the stumbling blocks and get to enjoy the experience. Some of the issues to keep in mind when starting a blog are: 1) Setting up a blog is not as hard as many people fear. Most blogging platforms provide step by step instructions as you register, write and publish your first post. You can explore the site later to learn what else you can do and add interesting features over time 2) Do short posts if you have time limitations. C. Hope Clark, American writer and publisher of Funds for Writers generally has about two paragraphs and a picture in each post. 3) To find something to blog about will require serious thought, so your parameters are clear. What are you willing to talk about regarding your life? What would get you into trouble with your employer/ publisher/ family/ friends? Keep in mind that whatever you write will be for public consumption, and thanks to Google cache, your posts will remain on the Internet even if you delete your blog. 4) Pace yourself and post once a week or so. Burnout is common among bloggers. PROMOTING YOUR BLOG 1) Judge your blog traffic by the quality of your visitors (strong interest in subject), not the quantity. 2) Most blogging gurus suggest bloggers on same subject visit each other’s blogs and leave a comment. Do it judiciously and don’t waste your time cultivating people who won’t reciprocate. 3) Experts also advise bloggers to provide visitors with unique, practical resources they can use. 4) Writing about other people is an effective way to build community. It allows the people who you interview to bring their own community to your blog. 5) Publish short essays/articles to drive traffic to your blog. We’re not talking about complicated stuff here. Just a short piece – sometimes as short as 250 words - based on work/writing or life experiences and resources. Ezine Articles and similar portals accept such articles and serve as distribution points. 6) Invite friends and relatives to visit your blog. My personal choice was not to invite them at the beginning. I wanted to put my best foot forward, because they are the people who will potentially market the blog for me. If they like it, they’ll brag to colleagues and friends: “check out my cousin Damaria’s blog here. She’s very talented, don’t you think?” 7) Link your blog to aggregators, so people outside your network can see your posts. Local aggregators include Afrigator.co.za and Amatomu.co.za. Also check out Jacketflap.com. It has over a thousand writers, illustrators, agents, publishers and librarians. STORY IDEAS 1. Post a picture/doodle a week. 2. Post a poem, a short short children’s story every other week. 3. Interview experts your readers would be interested in talking to. All you have to do is type up 5 burning questions and email them, clean up the copy and post it. 4. Link to interesting articles/resources you found on the web. 5. Find free articles on your subject, ready to be published at Ezine Articles (www.ezinearticles.com). THE BENEFITS Here are some lessons I learnt after blogging for 18 months: 1) A blog is an online place for you to showcase your work. You can refer editors to your online portfolio/clips. 2) You can allow readers to subscribe, which in turn allows you to build a captive audience you’ll market your books to. 3) There is also a growing international trend for bloggers to collate some of their posts into non-fiction books. A good local example is Tertia Albertyn, the Cape Town based woman who started blogging about her infertility and in vitro fertilisation procedures. Her book, So Close, published by Oshun Books, was based on the blog. 4) It provides a platform for new writers to practise writing and to get feedback on their work. 5) You meet very interesting people. RESOURCES The many reasons people blog http://quasifictionalviews.blogspot.com/2007/06/fine-art-of-blogging_14.html Sample blogs in the children’s publishing field www.jacketflap.com Choose a platform Platforms I’m familiar with are Blogger (www.blogger.com), Wordpress (www.wordpress.com ) and My Digital Life (www.mydigitallife.co.za; local, owned by my employer.) AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY Damaria Senne is a journalist and author based in Johannesburg. She blogs about writing and parenting at http://damariasenne.blogspot.com. Read her business/technology articles on the telecommunications industry (Internet and cellphones) at www.itweb.co.za.

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