Monday, 11 May 2015

Ten (and a half!) Things We've Learned About Blogging

It’s become increasingly important for authors to have a ‘platform’ to promote themselves and their books, but keeping a blog regularly updated can eat into precious writing time. A way around this is to have a joint blog with a group of friends. We started this blog way back in September 2012. It took a while for us to find our feet. We had no schedule - posting randomly whenever we felt like it, or not at all! Gradually our confidence grew, along with our visitors, and we now average over 100 hits a day. We’ve made mistakes along the way - and no doubt we’ll keep on making them! – but we have learned from them.

And here's what we've learned:

To ensure we stayed friends, we agreed in advance about the essentials, such as what we were going to blog about, and how often, and whether to have guest posts or to make our blog all about ourselves.

We learned to keep the design of our blog simple. Going mad with graphics, multi-coloured fonts and too many large photos meant our site was a bit slow to load and kept doing weird things. Occasionally it still does weird things but we decided to stick with the orange swirls because they've become our trademark. We've recently created a news page for our book launches and new releases, and another page lists all our latest books. This keeps our home page free for our blog posts.

We now tell visitors who we are (we used to be mistaken for a book blogging site!) and have lots of photographs to make ourselves seem more 'real'.

Most of our blog posts are around 600 words long, which we hope are just the right length to read during a coffee break. But we also like to alternate these with longer posts, which we break up with sub-headings, such as Valerie-Anne Baglietto did when she wrote this post about her favourite childhood books. (It makes them easier to read.)

We love photographs, but prefer to use our own rather than breaching someone else’s copyright. We recommend getting into the habit of carrying a camera around and building up a library of suitable photos, even doing your own photo shoot, as Johanna Grassick did for this post about books.

A group of authors blogging together can create a cross-pollination effect amongst their readers, but we try to be subtle about promotion. We write about the themes in our books rather than the books themselves. Trisha Ashley wrote a post about her pets when promoting her novel about a dog rescue centre and Juliet Greenwood wrote about creating a WW1 garden when her book set during the Great War came out.

We make sure our posts have a point to them and we’re not just blogging 'because it’s a Monday and we always blog on a Monday'. We try to make our posts informative, interesting, or at the very least entertaining - and occasionally tongue-in-cheek, like this one by Louise Marley.

If we get stuck for ideas we brainstorm subjects and themes. We’ve written posts about where we write (June Francis), how we juggle writing with family life (Anne Bennett) and even our favourite Christmas traditions (Cheryl Lang).

We keep an eye on our blog statistics and have found our posts about writing, research and inspiration are the most popular, especially this one by Annie Burrows, which has had almost 2,000 hits.

Finally, because there are ten of us, our posts receive ten times the exposure when we all link to them from our personal social networking sites. We tag our posts with all the (relevant!) labels we can think of. We try to keep old posts going by linking to them in a new post (in the same way we’ve done here - sneaky, eh?) or add the links in a list at the end, sub-titled something like ‘Related Posts’.

Setting up a blog and finding things to post about can be intimidating but with a group blog we can bounce ideas off each other and share the work between ourselves. And very often it doesn’t seem like work at all!


  1. this is a good idea..especially keeping it short...I do think, though, that to attract a lot of hits, one has to post at the same time every week, or a least the same day. Idiot blogger here does 2 posts a week, one on Sat , which tends to be on writing - and I so agreer, these do get the most hits, and now one on Tues...the Adventures of L-Plate Gran..more a mini-blog series. Using hashtags and reposting is vital....there are weeks when other real life, intrudes.

    1. Thank you, Carol! You are right about posting on the same day each week. On my own blog I try to post once a fortnight on a Sunday. I find the hit rate goes up on that day, even when I don't post, because people are checking to see if I've written something new. I think the trick is to write several posts in advance and then schedule them - but I'm never that organised!

      I love your new L-Plate Gran blog!

  2. I can see what you chaps mean about the regularity thing - I do know there will always be one from Carol Hedges on Sat morn, for instance, so look for it - but I post randomly, and I think the average viewing figure for my posts is about 1500-2000 - I;m not fanatical about stats, so I can't say for sure; the writing type ones get over 3000. How? One of the best ways to get your blog more widely known is to use the blog share hashtag days (properly!) on Twitter. Monday Blogs, Sunday Blog Share and wwwblogs on Wednesday - some make the mistake of just sticking on the hashtag and RTing a couple of their mates who use it, too! But these days (particularly Monday) are the key to getting the blog read by whole new audiences - RT people you've never seen before, anyone who has written something that you think might interest your followers, even if you're not interested in it (mummyblogs - get outta here!! But loads of people love them).

    Of course, the main key is to write stuff worth reading, present it well (ie, not huge blocks of text), and give it a GREAT headline when you post on Twitter, etc!

    I always read the Novelistas posts, btw, and agree, it is an excellent blog!!!

    1. Thank you, Terry! You are so right about the use of hashtags and promotion. It is far more effective to widely promote a post across social media than to try a write a new post every few days. As much as we love blogging, our writing comes first!

      We love #MondayBlogs and #wwwblogs and have met lots of lovely new bloggers this way too x


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