Welcome to WANA Wednesday, based off my best-selling book, We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. This is the day I dedicate to help you guys rock it hard when it comes to social media. For the past month and a half, we have been discussing blogging. If you are new to the blog, I recommend going back and reading the previous lessons. It will save you a lot of time and heartbreak. I am going to assume all of you are clever enough to look to the sidebar to take you there ;). For the rest of you? It’s Fashion Week!
Today we are going to pose the question, “What makes a great blog?” To a degree I feel I am an authority, namely because I have made all the stupid mistakes so you don’t have to. After a lot of noodle-throwing (to see what would stick) and tar baby wrestling, a book, and 130 blog posts, I now feel confident to call myself an expert. This blog has been very successful and grown to have a worldwide following. I wasn’t always a good blogger and, in fact, when I look to some of my early blogs I just kind of want to start whistling and walk away.
Don’t make eye contact. Baby blogs not properly nurtured by humans go feral.
This week, we are going to address some superficial aspects of a blog that can make or break you from the beginning. Appearance matters. Yeah, we would all love to believe that we don’t judge books by their cover, but most of us do…all the time. We aren’t going to buy a house with the front door hanging off the hinges, a car the color of baby puke, or eat a gourmet dish that looks like something the cat coughed up. We don’t go on a blind date and see some guy across the room and go, “Kafka! Kafka! That seems like someone I could have intellectually stimulating conversations with.”
We are shallow! Blogs don’t get a pass on human nature. We are going to judge by appearance first.
So today, we are going to do a fashion makeover on your blog. Does you blog have bad breath? Her dress tucked in her panty hose? A bat in the cave? Appearances matter, and they matter when it comes to blogs. Let’s check out some top blog fashion faux pas.
- The Emo Blog?
The Emo Blog is dark, angry, moody and most often misunderstood. His black background mimics the color of his soul, and the red letters are like the self-inflicted slashes on his arms. Emo blog is just a bummer to hang out with.
The goth look is okay for teenagers who use their blog to catalogue teenage angst. If the purpose of your blog is to tell your friends about the time you dreamed you were Bella and Edward made you a vampire, then this background is fine. If you are over the age of 17, choose another background.
For the blogger trying to gain a following, tossing your readers’ corneas into a Digital Iron Maiden is not a good way to get on their good side. Black backgrounds with red letters might look killer, but they are murder on the eyes. Any dark color with lighter lettering is bad juju.
There is a popular WordPress background that is turquoise with pale yellow lettering. Every time I click to a blog with that background, I move on. My eyes get strained enough without me volunteering for thicker glasses.
Yes, I will grant that these Emo/Goth/Dark backgrounds look cool to us, but we already know what the words say (um…we wrote them). For a stranger, this will just make them hate you. It certainly won’t encourage them to hang out and read your previous posts.
Blogs need light backgrounds, dark letters, and, above all, be easy to read. I feel for the horror writers, but there are some gray urban decay backgrounds that will be just as creepy, and the upside is that readers will be more likely to hang out on your site. Overall, when you choose a background, go ask the friend you can trust to tell you your butt is fat to look at your blog.
2. The Poseur Blog
The Poseur Blog is the blog that just tries too hard to impress, and, in the end, just seems desperate and kind of sad. Italics, creative fonts, and too many flashy widgets are like two bottles of hair gel, a spray tan, an Ed Hardy shirt, and arms full of man bracelets. Sad, sad, sad.
Again, love your reader, love their eyes. If you must use a creative font, use it for the headers, but try to stay with standard fonts like New Times Roman or Callibri lest your blog be banished to the Jersey Shores.
Our content should be creative, not the presentation. When our blog has odd backgrounds with video, music and cursive font, that is the equivalent of sending a query letter written in pink on perfumed paper with stickers. Readers are judging us by what we write, not by the zillion flashy gizmos we learned how to insert into our page. Again, less is more.
3. The Invisible Man Blog
The Invisible Man Blog has less to do with the content and more to do with the author. Where is your name? Is it easy to spot, or is finding your name like a frustrating game of “Where’s Waldo?” Are you a blogger or in witness protection?
Our names need to be visible. If we are blogging and we are writers, then the blog needs to serve our careers. This is called “efficiency.” Blogging and writing are not two separate activities. Our blog needs to build our brand, which is always our name. I have read some really excellent blogs, but had no clue who wrote the darn thing.
You might be like me and you started the blog before you got a clue. No problem. Your name might not be in the URL, but it does need to be in the header. This is not the time to be shy. Write a blog you are proud to slap your name across…tastefully ;).
4. The Gypsy Blog
The Gypsy Blog has long flowing…everything. Long sentences, long paragraphs, long blogs. Loooooooong. The Gypsy Blog is so carefree that it forgot to care…at all. I know there is a lot of debate how long blogs should be. Personally, I don’t care. If a blogger is keeping me engaged and entertained, word count is the last thing I am paying attention to.
The trick with length is to make the paragraphs smaller. Break a long blog into digestible bites. As long as you are writing in a way that engages the reader, likely she won’t notice if you run long. Trust me, a 500 word blog that is all one paragraph will get skipped before a 1200 word engaging blog with lots of breaks.
Next week we are going to discuss some more ways to make your blog connect to readers and grow faster than you ever imagined. In the meantime, do you guys have any pet peeves? Notice some Blog Fashion Faux Pas? Surely I didn’t get to all of them. What are some things you like to see in blogs? What turns you off?
Until next time…..
Give yourself the gift of success so you can ROCK 2011. My best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.
Also, I highly recommend the Write It Forward Workshops. Learn all about plotting, how to write great characters, and even how to self-publish successfully…all from the best in the industry. I will be teaching on social media and building a brand in March. For $20 a workshop, you can change your destiny….all from the comfort of home.
Mash Up of Awesomeness
The Writer’s Toolkit: The Alpha and Omega of Your Novel by NY Times Best-Selling Author Bob Mayer
What’s In a (Pen) Name? by Peter St-Clair. Awesome post about how to keep up with more than one identity.
How Should Writers Use Social Media? With Purpose by Dan Blank
3 Topics for Writers To Avoid on Social Networks by Jill Kemerer
10 Creative Ways to Break Writer’s Block Fast by Fred White
5 Ways to Develop Consistency in Writing and Blogging and The Snowball Effect of Social Media by Author Jody Hedlund (yes, I am a Jody fan)
How to be a Mom/Dad and Still Be a Writer by Suzan Isik
How to Write a Press Release for Your Book by Alexis Grant
When is a Story Worth Writing? Part One by Jami Gold
Can Self-Publishing Lead to a Traditional Publishing Contract? (really interesting article) by Joel Friedlander
Hey Writerface: Don’t Be a Dick but Still Have Opinions and From Bile to Buttercream; How a Writer Makes Use of Rejection by the brilliant Chuck Wendig
I also highly, highly recommend Chuck’s book of short stories Irregular Creatures. If you love his blog, you will TOTALLY dig the stories and you can’t beat the price to be THAT entertained.
How Authors Move their Own Merchandise via The Wall Street Journal (Joanne Kaufman). One more reason EVERY writer needs a copy of my book…just sayin’.
A really inspiring post by Piper Bayard Unemployment: Aka The Road
Get Your Geek On With…
Manon Eileen’s A Test–Introversion and Extroversion
What is a Cult, Exactly? by Peter Saint-Clair