I’ve done a couple of days of tips on blogging, and today I’ll take a short hiatus to discuss some of the comments that have come up.
I noticed that Marcus, over at GoodWordEditing, posted a blog entry today titled “I’m not a Brand, and Neither is My Blog.” Marcus makes some excellent points, and I’ll refer you to his post to read those. Let me be the first to say that not everybody should be using their blog as a commercial venture. Blogs started out life as web diaries. Some of them morphed eventually into businesses, but that doesn’t mean every blogger should be trying to turn a buck. Most people play baseball for fun. A few play it for money. Either choice is OK, so long as you are not fooling yourself that you are doing it for Reason #2 when you are really doing it for Reason #1.
This is a problem I’m seeing with publishing houses these days. They tell their authors to blog in order to market their fiction. But they give them little guidance in how to do that effectively. I don’t know of any novelists right now who are blogging effectively. I’m sure there are some, so you should understand that I’m merely stating my ignorance here. I know of some successful novelists who are blogging, but that is not the same thing. Which came first, the blog or the success? In many cases, it’s the success. My readers will no doubt point me to effective bloggers, and then I won’t be ignorant anymore. (Post a comment here if you know of a successful novelist who is successful BECAUSE of the blogging. I have no doubt that it’s been done.)
Tom had some very good comments on how to get radio interviews. His comments are too long to repost here, but just check the comments for my post from yesterday. Tom is an announcer on a NYC radio show, so he knows what he’s talking about. My own radio interviews have always been lined up by publicists, so I have no direct experience setting them up myself.
Donna posted a comment yesterday that I want to discuss. It’s quite long, but it raises some important issues:
I did want to mention a few downsides of blogging on your own site just so those not used to ‘owning’ your own site will know what to expect. One is about the hosting. I haven’t used a free site in years but from what I remember, free sites are limited on what you can do on them, which could make it impossible to add in applications such as blog and message board programs. The best way is to go with paid hosting. Then you have to pay to register your domain name to point to it. Third is that bringing in a lot of traffic to your site runs up your bandwith, which I’m sure Randy can agree with. Hosting allows a certain amount of bandwidth to be used that is covered in the cost but if you exceed that amount for a month they most often will shut your site down, either until the beginning of the next month or until you pay extra to cover it. And lastly, which is what I really hate, is that the higher you get in the search engines, the more spammers you get hitting your site. Trust me, they love to post their ads, many obscene, on message boards, guest books and blogs. So, this means making sure to have secure scripts running and know how to set preferences to keep their posts from showing until approved. The net is a great place but….
Randy sez: I would agree that if you are going to host a blog on your own web site (which I recommend doing) you should host it on a paid site. It is dirt cheap these days to get a site hosted with mammoth amounts of memory and plenty of bandwidth. A free hosted site is generally going to have ads, and those make you look like a cheapskate. Pay the few bucks per month to host it. GoDaddy charges less than $4 per month for hosting. There are many others that are comparable. I’ve never had problems with using too much bandwidth. GoDaddy’s cheapest hosting offers 250 GB of data transfer per month. Last week, my site transferred 1.9 GB of data. For all of December, I transferred less than 9 GB.
Spam, of course, is an issue. The WordPress blogging software has an excellent spam filtering plugin called Akismet. My policies on this site are fairly tight. All first-time comments are moderated. All comments containing a link are moderated. I use the generic set of “no-no” words that Akismet came with. Posts that contain “no-no” words are considered spam. My spam filter has caught many thousands of spam messages and has never allowed a true spam to get through. It has marked a few legitimate comments as spam, and I have rescued them all.
I allow comments that make personal attacks on me, but no personal attacks on my blog readers are allowed. In one case last year, I removed a series of comments that made personal attacks on me after a few days because I concluded that they were thinly disguised commercials, and I didn’t care to provide free advertising for this person. By the time I removed the comments, my loyal blog readers had made it clear to the offender that they liked me a lot better than him. (Thanks, folks!) I believe in free speech, so attacks on me don’t much bother me. But I have to approve all commercials on this blog.
Sidenote: I’ve been on your newsletter list for a while and noticed the other day that I haven’t received one in a few months. I check Spam daily, so it hasn’t gotten caught up in that. Would you suggest signing up again?
Randy sez: My hunch is that your ISP is filtering my e-zines. ISPs can do this without your knowledge or permission. I can see from my delivery reports that certain ISPs have been filtering my e-zines lately, and there’s little I can do about it. I archive all issues on this site in the E-zine section, and I announce each issue on this blog. That’s about all I can do. 🙁
Would you advise starting with a website or a blog? I have neither. Will a blog on a free blog site be picked up by a search engine, or only a website? Sorry, but I know NOTHING about the internet — only how to ask a question.
Randy sez: I would get a website with my name as the domain and then put a blog there. You might want to start small by first just reserving your domain. (I’ll talk about this tomorrow, since it clearly needs to be addressed.)
Several other readers asked about how to attract traffic to a blog. This is an Xtremely important question and I’ll have a lot to say on this next week. But first things first. Tomorrow, we’ll back up and talk about some of the annoying administrative things you need to do to get a domain and host your site. See ya then!