Best format of introductory blog post?

Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and promoting your book on the Internet
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Rachel Ventura
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Best format of introductory blog post?

Post by Rachel Ventura » November 3rd, 2011, 6:37 pm

In trying to figure out what my best approach is to the whole social media phenomenon, I've started to wonder what's the best subject for an introductory blog post, i.e. the first ever that you put on the blog -- which is your first entry into the anarchic Coliseum of Internet self-promotion in your whole entire life.

This is kind of similar to the worry that a lot of writers have about the first words on Page 1 of their fiction works, but the difference is once you get going with a longer "offline" work, it's much easier to go back and revamp those first words/lines/paragraphs/pages/chapters (etc...), and no one in public has to see your opening entry. I know blogs can be entered in draft, but what I'm really asking about is the theme or topic of the first post, the one that "gets you established" (on the site, at least), affirming your "niche" or platform of experience (or just gets your feet wet as a blogger/story writer). The blog usually has an "about" section that covers the five Ws of the blog and its creator, so I'm wondering what people (should) do with their Post #1 that isn't somehow redundant compared to the bio page. I assume the 12-Step style introduction like I did (humorously) here is a tired format by now, so what else is there that people do to get their digital feet wet, so to speak?

Obviously, as several commenters here and at other blogs have noted, it's easier to get started with "platform" as a nonfiction writer than a fiction writer. ProBlogger can just jump right in with a random article about, well, blogging. A fiction writer, I would think, has a little more of a challenge in that jumping right in and blogging right away about his/her characters or favorite books personally read probably isn't a good idea, in that there's a good amount of "who cares" that'd likely crop up (by not cropping up at all). The amateur fiction-writing blogger probably has no real-world publishing credits and little to no regular blogging experience. A restaurant owner, meanwhile, can just jump right in and talk about his restaurant and/or the type of food offered there. A novelist or short-story writer is most likely starting from scratch. (In a different way, s/he doesn't have anything "to bring to the table.") At least I know I am...and I don't.

So, how do you make the first post stand out somehow from the About page, since it's the articles, not the static bio, that would serve as the entry point, and the bio as context for the content? A "why am I here" might not work, because a lot of author/bloggers would probably think "because I've been told I have to." Is it acceptable to just "jump in" sort of in media res (in the middle of the action), writing about what you would normally write about if you'd been online for 10 years, or is there a recommended content that first-ever posts should include? I mean really, what do people say in Post #1? I've never been good at initiating conversations; usually I'll add something after someone else has introduced a topic. Always a follower rather than a leader, one who joins a party rather than hosts one. Not assertive at all whatsoever. Guest blogging might be good for a case like this, but at some point I'd have to branch out on my own. And then, cue the crickets, and I don't mean English sport players. ;)

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CharleeVale
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Re: Best format of introductory blog post?

Post by CharleeVale » November 4th, 2011, 12:48 am

I honestly think 'Hello." would suffice. Lol.

First, one post isn't going to make or break you. The amount of people who are even going to see the first post, is frankly minimal. It takes time to gain popularity as a blogger, (It's taken me three years to gain a steady audience) and by then no one will remember your first post. I think my first blog post was a rant about my college's horrible cafeteria food. An introduction of yourself will be fine.

Second: RELAX. Breathe. You'll be fine.

CV

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Re: Best format of introductory blog post?

Post by Hillsy » November 4th, 2011, 6:58 am

Rachel Ventura wrote:And then, cue the crickets, and I don't mean English sport players. ;)
We're Cricketers..... :D

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Re: Best format of introductory blog post?

Post by Sommer Leigh » November 4th, 2011, 10:37 am

Here's the thing that I think might be giving you some grief - your blog? Not really your platform. I think agent Janet Reid said it best here: http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/201 ... tform.html but while your blog, if you are able to generate lots of readers, might help you reach and sell more books when you're published, it is not really a platform for fiction writers. And I think you'll end up hating blogging very quickly if you think of it that way. Blogging is not a job, even though it might take as much time as a job. It should be something you do because you love doing it. Don't push yourself into something you won't enjoy - there are better ways to reach people that take a lot less time. Like twitter and Facebook and Google + and Tumblr.

Here's what I tell all new bloggers: Prepare to spend 6 months talking to yourself. I mean, work on writing your posts like you're talking to a room full of interested people, but expect that no one will be listening for about 6 months. Except for the lucky, that's about how long it takes to start reaching regular readers, the kind who comment and come back day after day. During these six months you'll work on figuring out what you want to write about, how you want to write about it, and what you want your blog to be about. Most first blog posts are a version of "Oooh, look at my shiny new blog! I'm blogging!" and that's fine. Very few people will ever read that post and if later you hate it, you can always private it or delete it so no one sees. Tell Great Stories isn't my first blog, but my very first post for it was a book review on Last Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko, though I've since privated it and a few other early posts after I decided I did not want to have book reviews on my blog.

Another great thing about knowing no one is really going to be reading you regularly for a good six months is that you can make all the mistakes you want in that time and you figure out what your blog voice is. Don't take it too seriously or worry about definitive blog posts too much.

Oh! And if you start blogging now, you'll be hitting your six month stride in time for the A to Z Blog Challenge that over takes everything in April. That is a FANTASTIC time to pick up new blog readers.
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
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Rachel Ventura
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Re: Best format of introductory blog post?

Post by Rachel Ventura » November 4th, 2011, 1:13 pm

Sommer Leigh wrote:there are better ways to reach people that take a lot less time. Like twitter and Facebook and Google + and Tumblr
I was always under the impression that Twitter/FB/G+/Tumblr were meant as accessories to the core component of the platform, which is the blog, rather than the platform itself. I didn't think you could have one (or more) without the other, that people would go to the blog based on what they like elsewhere, and that there might be something of a letdown if the "core" just isn't there.

Also, if I had a Twitter I'd probably link to the FB and Tumblr, and there'd likely be a lot of duplication. I don't think I'd have enough to say (or enough energy to say it all) that's different on all 3. I also thought that there was a degree of disdain directed at Tumblr users, from those more "expert" and "committed" in the blogosphere who say that Tumblr is the lazy writer's platform. Those who don't have the commitment and/or creativity to come up with 3-5 paragraphs of quality content even 3x/week, have 3-5 lines of brief commentary and "reblog" (or copypasta) from everyone else. (AKA "Tumblr is to blogging what Twitter is to Aristotlean oratory.")

Can somebody debunk whether or or not if you're serious about being a professional in the new media realm, rather than a novelty cult figure, you absolutely need a self-install of Wordpress and your own domain? I can't afford a domain, and I don't have enough tech-savvy for most everything else. I read something about this on one of the blogs linked to on Mr. Bransford's site (external links from her site; bold emphasis and language cleanup mine):
Justine Musk, TribalWriter.com wrote:Blogging is a skill and an art in itself. It requires practice. It’s a different experience from writing fiction, and it makes different demands on the writer in order to satisfy different expectations from the reader.

Also, it’s still a new form. Still in the process of discovering its identity. What microblogging – Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook status updates – have done is to draw away the bloggers who weren’t quite right for blogging in the first place. Microblogs and blogs are defining themselves against each other in ways that can complement and work towards a greater whole. Microblogs can be about socializing and sharing in ways that pull people in and send them to your blog. Your blog can be about vision and substance. Your blog is your chance to write epic [expletive]. (Your blog also sends people to your microblog. The best way for me to collect a jump in Twitter followers is to put up a worthy blog post.)

Writing epic [expletive] is not the advice a lot of people will give you; they will tell you to write short posts as often as possible. If that fits your natural rhythm, and you can maintain a high degree of quality, then go for it. But I’m no longer convinced that that should be the ideal.
http://justinemusk.com/2011/02/22/shoul ... e-of-time/

Ms. Musk's entry makes a lot of sense. It also scares the living daylights into me. :evil: What she is saying that your "real" blog -- your professional blog, in other words -- needs to be regularly and frequently updated and filled with high quality content, and that the other social media outlets need to be on the periphery. The important crux of your platform is the blog. Your Tumblr, Twitter, etc. are just as essential, because these will lead people to your blog. I don't think I'm good enough to "write epic [expletive]" without sacrificing time spent on the offline work (and I don't think I have that much '"epic [expletive]" in me to begin with).

And yet, Jonathan Franzen's quote about writers who use the Internet makes a lot of sense too. I've seen Mr. Franzen all over the media and bestseller lists. Ms. Musk, I hadn't heard of except through her blog/website, TribalWriter.com. She's a very talented writer, and Mr. Franzen's not a Luddite, but he's probably too busy, you know, writing books to spend hours interacting online.

(If you search on the site for a commenter by the name of Ugly Dumpling...that's me.) ;-)
CharleeVale wrote:I honestly think 'Hello." would suffice. Lol. ... An introduction of yourself will be fine.
That's good. I figured copypasta from the About Me section would seem like a cop-out. (I do like pasta, though.) ;) But judging by the differing opinions I've seen here, there, and everywhere, I somehow don't think Hello World would cut it.
Sommer Leigh wrote:Here's what I tell all new bloggers: Prepare to spend 6 months talking to yourself.
So what I've been doing for about 15 of my 19 years isn't "crazy," but "preparing a business model"? Ha, and I always thought I was just nuts! Now I know I'm a marketing whiz! :lol:

(I mean, 15 out of my...5.) ;)

I think what's also giving me grief is that I'm not a very social person to begin with. One would think I'd be a natural at day-to-day online communication because I'm so shy IRL, and yet I struggle with both. I also don't think I'm focused enough that I could concentrate on the real core of the platform, and that'd be, well, writing the story or book. Once I'd get online and start talking to people, I probably wouldn't know when to stop -- and then I'd do too much and people'd think I'm spamming. (Plus, then I'd be too tired and wired to do the offline work which is really what's most important!) ;)

But can you provide more details about that A-Z series you mentioned?

EDIT: I just checked out Janet Reid's post that Ms. Leigh linked to. I have it open in another tab, and am reading and rereading it as I write here. She says a lot about what nonfiction "platform" should be, and what it shouldn't be, but doesn't say much of anything about other types of pre-sale "selling yourself," besides linking to someone else's book. I have Christina Katz's "Get Known Before the Book Deal" and Ariel Gore's "How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead" on my to-read list. BUT I DON'T HAVE $ FOR EITHER OF THEM. :cry:

I don't think Ms. Reid went into enough detail for n00bs like me who need to get their name out there somehow, but really, even still, have zero idea of what it means or how to go about it. She basically just said, "buy this book, it'll tell you everything you need to know." Great teaser, an excellent point of sale, but not very helpful in terms of what I needed to know just from reading her post. :( As a fiction writer I don't know what I ought to do or say.

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Re: Best format of introductory blog post?

Post by Sommer Leigh » November 4th, 2011, 2:15 pm

Rachel Ventura wrote:

I was always under the impression that Twitter/FB/G+/Tumblr were meant as accessories to the core component of the platform, which is the blog, rather than the platform itself.
Not at all. In fact, you should only choose one or two social media outlets to concentrate on (blog, twitter, fb, google, whatever) that you really, really, really love. Because it is true that if you want to build up a core reader base, you'll need to plan to devote a good amount of time and effort into whatever you choose to do. Most of the readers you find will come from your interaction with them, your seeking others out first, on whatever platform you choose, and that can be very time consuming. If you hate blogging, you won't want to spend all your time trying to build a blog (and readers will know you're only doing it to build the mysterious "platform" and they won't stick around because they'll know you don't really want to stick around.) If you enjoy blogging, it can be very rewarding, but definitely the most time consuming of the options.
Rachel Ventura wrote:
Also, if I had a Twitter I'd probably link to the FB and Tumblr, and there'd likely be a lot of duplication. I don't think I'd have enough to say (or enough energy to say it all) that's different on all 3. I also thought that there was a degree of disdain directed at Tumblr users, from those more "expert" and "committed" in the blogosphere who say that Tumblr is the lazy writer's platform.
There is some duplication, but most of it isn't. I Twitter in the evening when I'm doing other things and I tend to have conversations with writers and authors who are on Twitter at that time. A lot of it is about sharing, but it is also about conversations and commenting.

As for Tumblr, I'm sure some people think that. I think it really depends on how you use Tumblr. I know a lot of writers who use it like a blog and have great success.
Rachel Ventura wrote:
Can somebody debunk whether or or not if you're serious about being a professional in the new media realm, rather than a novelty cult figure, you absolutely need a self-install of Wordpress and your own domain?
You don't need to have either one. I would say if you become agented or decide to self publish then you absolutely need to have your own domain (which is very cheap through wordpress and blogger, cheaper than if you buy your own through a domain site like GoDaddy) but until then it's not necessary. Having your own domain, usually with your name as the domain, makes it easier for people to find you. But before that time it's not necessary. If you end up buying a domain name later, anyone using your old address will still get to you. They will all still be valid. (example: http://www.heyyou/wordpress.com and http://www.heyyou.com would both point to the wordpress blog)

Self-install/self hosted wordpress is for people who have some degree of knowledge in building a website and want the ability to customize and control their blog more OR it's for people who want to learn to do those things. If you're not one of those people, you don't need wordpress.org. In fact, if you're not comfortable with figuring all that out, I strongly advise against using it. Wordpress.com blogs work just fine and are awesome too. Blogger too. I like them both, I just prefer wordpess.

And you can always change your mind later and switch.
Rachel Ventura wrote:
Ms. Musk's entry makes a lot of sense. It also scares the living daylights into me. :evil: What she is saying that your "real" blog -- your professional blog, in other words -- needs to be regularly and frequently updated and filled with high quality content, and that the other social media outlets need to be on the periphery.
Yes and no. The truth is, blogs are falling out of favor in general because Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook and Google + are just faster ways to communicate bite sized pieces of information. Blogs are longer and take longer to keep up. But blogs serve a function that these other sites don't - that some topics need longer, more in depth ways of sharing information. Blogs probably won't go away for a long time, but blogs with staying power need something specific that people are looking for. I think that "something" sometimes gets confused with "platform" because they can be the same thing, but also they don't have to be.

For example, you can write books about being a parent with a blog about parenting. That could be a platform builder. Or you might have a blog about being a new writer and your blog voice is something people like reading - it's funny, informative, and provides a fresh and entertaining insight into the world of being a new writer. That's not really building a platform though because eventually you will no longer be a new writer and you'll move on to other topics, maybe. But if you built up a following of readers, it's probably got more to do with your personality than with your topic.

It is true, though, that if you want a blog to be successful, you have to be prepared to write engaging, high quality content regularly. That doesn't necessarily mean every day, but blogs with a regular schedule tend to do better than those that post "whenever". Going weeks between blog posts will be a quick way to lose readers.

The content is subjective. If you write science fiction, you could create a blog or tumblr dedicated to collecting articles, studies, pictures, etc about real world science-fictiony things. It might be on topic and quality, a resource, without writing long blog posts. Or you might be very good at short, punchy blog posts, or longer posts. The important thing is that you blog your personality, your voice, and you try to be interesting and relevant. Don't TRY to blog like anything in paritcular, just do what makes you happy and what you seem to be good at and what you can be proud of. It's the wonderful people behind the blogs that readers love and want to hear more from. The content is often secondary (sort of) if that makes sense. Great content with no personality can quickly feel like a wikipedia page. And we already have those.

Finally, I personally believe you don't have to build a social media platform. Some people say you do, some say you don't. There's no proof that having one even helps. 99% of the authors I follow on blogs and Twitter are people I follow AFTER I bought their book, not before. But I usually buy the next books, so maybe it's sort of a working chicken and egg thing.

Social media works really well for some people, but if you don't like doing it, it will show and that'll make the whole thing a waste of time. The most important thing is that whatever you do you love doing it. The social media thing is about making connections. If you don't enjoy doing it, then it would be better to spend your time making an awesome book.


The A to Z Blog Challenge happens in April. You post each day represented by a letter. Anything you want to post about, but tied in somehow to the letter of that day. You sign up on the site and there are a few bigger bloggers who host and encourage people to keep posting and visiting other blogs all month.

It helps to get people into writing blog posts regularly and it gets people to visit other participant blog sites so you gain followers very quickly. I think I gained like 60 new followers my first year, many of which are still regular readers who I absolutely adore. The challenge brings bloggers together in a big way. It has a blog of its own: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.

Rachel Ventura
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Re: Best format of introductory blog post?

Post by Rachel Ventura » November 4th, 2011, 2:40 pm

Thanks, Ms. Leigh, for the very insightful response. I think for at least the time being I'm going to squirrel away and be a more offline presence than online one. When I feel more confident that I've got a decent amount of work to pool from, then maybe I'll get my pinky toe wet in the social-media realm and start actively seeking feedback. (I haven't written much of anything yet, which is why I'm still so confuzzled about the online thing. Probably once I have more behind me I'll have a clearer picture of things.)

Just a question about the A-Z challenge:

Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November,
All the rest have thirty-one,
And then the year is almost done.
Excepting February fine,
Most often only twenty-eight
Though four years I have to wait
For years to have my birthday, twenty-nine. :lol:

But 26 letters hath the alphabet. What happens on the other 4 days? Greece is the word? ;-)

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Re: Best format of introductory blog post?

Post by Sommer Leigh » November 4th, 2011, 4:49 pm

Rachel Ventura wrote:
But 26 letters hath the alphabet. What happens on the other 4 days? Greece is the word? ;-)
Last year we did not post on sundays. The set up doesn't exactly work this year, so I'm not sure what the structure will be this year.
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.

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