Advice for My Previous Newbie Blogger Self

A friend recently asked me for some advice for setting up a writing blog. After laughing for three days because someone thinks I can advise anyone, I wrote some pointers for her.

Then I realised I do know some things. Who would have thought it?

If I could visit my previous newbie blogging self, this is what I’d tell her.

Note: this is advice to myself. I’ve never claimed to be a guru. Make of this what you will.

Playing the Long Game in the Wilderness

Writing blogs are often wilderness blogs, unfortunately.

Sure, you can be Chuck Wendig and get a massive following but it takes a lot of work, social media engagement, and churning out books. This may sound cynical but it’s universally known by writing bloggers.

Advice for My Newbie Blogging Self - before bloggingIt’s taken me a few years to build a following on my blog. You don’t get lots of comments, apart from the faithful few. Again, this isn’t just based on my blog but on speaking with other writer bloggers.

You have to do this blog gig for the love of it. The initial lack of engagement while you’re building it up will feel rubbish.

You may want to give up because no one comments, shares or mentions your posts.

Remember the long game. You will get there if you’re prepared to engage with others, promote, and keep blogging for yourself.

Do it for Yourself

When I first started blogging I did it because I was told all writers should have a platform before they publish. This is true to an extent. It helps.

I decided after blogging for months and not getting much of a response to change my viewpoint. I used blogging as a writing tool. It helped me to write concisely and find my writing voice. Any interaction was a bonus.

Food, Fashion, and Parenthood Aren’t Us

Writing blogs aren’t always as popular as food, parenting, and fashion blogs. These reign supreme and some (note: some, not all) of these bloggers will be snobby about writing bloggers with their ‘little blogs’.

Ignore blogger snobs. There’s room for everyone. Every subject under the sun can be covered and someone will be interested.

You may not get the thousands of hits a ‘food porn’ post gets but you’ll be helping and engaging with the specific audience that needs and appreciates what you do.

It’s Not All About the Money

Advice for My Newbie Blogging Self - lazy bloggerThere’s nothing wrong with not monetising your site. It’s hard work and because writing blogs are so niche, the income for a small blog is minimal.

If you’re a dedicated, hustling blogger who gives writing tips, freebies, and publishes lots of ‘How to’ writing books you may just make a fair bit of cash. It will take time to get there.

Do not feel bad if you blog just for blogging’s sake. Not everyone wants to make money from it. You’re not a failure if you don’t.

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging on other people’s sites doesn’t necessarily draw in more of an audience to your blog.

If you want to guest post and get someone to do it on your site, go for it. It’s a good way to interact with other writers and bloggers. You can learn a lot from each other and show solidarity.

Just don’t expect guest blogging to bring in a lot of traffic, unless you’re lucky and get to do it on a very popular blog.

Social Media

Social media is key.

The best advice I can give is to have a few social media sites and concentrate on them rather than join lots and not engage much on them because of lack of time.

You will gain quite a few followers on Facebook but Facebook will hammer you with its need to make money.

You will have nearly 2000 followers and Facebook will only show 20 people your posts, if you’re lucky. Even less usually when you share a blog post link.

Don’t pay to boost your posts on Facebook. It doesn’t work.

Even though you can choose who they show your post to, Facebook still often target the wrong audience or people ignore another advert they can easily scroll past.

Many writers and bloggers will tell you never to pay Facebook for advertising. There will always be people who insist it’s a great idea. Fair play to them if it magically works.

Twitter is good for finding other writers and readers. You will like it for finding important people like agents and those who can help with the writing process.

Post daily on social media. Keep up the engagement.

Spend time following other writers and bloggers who inspire you and have good content in their blogs and social media. You will make some great virtual friends who will want to help you.

Right from the start of this blogging and writing venture, you’ll gain some really supportive allies. They will regularly share your posts, comment, and encourage. Do the same for them.

What am I?

Decide right from the start exactly what your blog is, your intended audience, and what you’re offering.

Just like the elevator pitch when you should be able to tell an agent in the time it takes a lift to get to your floor what your novel is about (excruciating), you should be able to tell people exactly what your blog is about.

Advice for My Newbie Blogging Self - cat bloggerIf you don’t know, you need to refine it until you do. This is probably obvious but it’s important.

Start with a clear purpose for your blog. Later on you can diversify once people become acquainted with your blog.

Previous newbie blogging self, you began this as a writing blog, alongside writing your first novel.

Later, you will write about reading, books, mental health, and Feegle has an occasional writer’s cat blogging spot.

People who follow your blog don’t seem to have a problem with it because you made sure everything still made sense under the banner of being a writer.

Storing Up

If you’re able to, store up some blog posts. There will be times when you’re feeling rubbish or life stuff gets in the way.

You’ll be extremely grateful you have posts already written.

It also gives more time to concentrate on working on your novel without worrying about getting a blog post done.

Keeping Regular

Have a dedicated day for when you post. You will decide on every Monday. People who follow you will come to expect this.

Make potential followers aware from the start when your posts will be published. People like to know what to expect.

Be consistent. If you don’t blog for weeks, you’ll lose followers and interest.

Be honest with your followers. If you’re poorly or life has dealt rubbish cards, tell them there’s no post today but you’ll certainly be back.

By the way, previous newbie blogger self, you’ve been a pro with bringing out the posts every week.

Engage

Advice for My Newbie Blogging Self - mum bloggerI know I use the word ‘engage’ a lot. It’s so important.

It may feel time-consuming at first but if you spend time conversing with people on social media and replying to the comments they make on your blog posts, you will gain dedicated followers and friends.

It doesn’t have to take up your whole day. Set aside times throughout the day when you’ll check social media and your blog. It will become an easy and pleasant routine.

Focus on people first and then your blog when interacting on social media.

You don’t want to be viewed as just another blogger or writer who only cares about showcasing their work. You’re better than that.

Cats

Add in cats! Seriously, people bloody love a mention of cats. It’s standard.

Feegle’s posts will often be more popular than yours. Because. Cat.

Enjoy it

Have fun with it. It doesn’t have to be a chore.

Write about what you’re passionate about.

Write about subjects that mean something to you.

Don’t force yourself to write about topics that are writing standards. It will show in your writing.

Check what other posts are out there. Follow lots of other writing bloggers. See what they do but most of all, be yourself.

Find your unique voice and use it.

Over to You

What advice would you give to your previous newbie blogging self?

Did you make any mistakes?

Do you have any great tips for newbie bloggers or the more seasoned type?

About Lisa Sell

Lisa Sell is a fiction writer and blogger. When not wrestling with words she can be found showing the love for chocolate, cheese, coffee, the cat, and the Husband. Not particularly in that order.

17 comments on “Advice for My Previous Newbie Blogger Self

  1. Blogging is therapeutic, sometimes great, sometimes the worst! But i too do it for me more than an audience. It’s great to interact with people if they do comment, but if they don’t it’s just another Saturday, no-biggy.
    Funny though that your first point included Chuck Wendig because I came across his blog somehow early on and started following him. A few times I commented, then I even went so far as to play some of his writing games. However he never commented back, never interacted with his audience. So I came to realize his blogs were all about him – the views – the money – the notoriety? I can’t say, but I quickly un-followed him and because of that will never buy one of his books.
    So yes, engaging with your audience is vastly important!

    1. That’s a shame, regarding your experience with Chuck Wendig’s blog.

      I have found that the more successful a blog is, the less likely it us for the blogger to respond to comments. It may be that they can’t keep up with it. I’m just guessing though .

      I’m always grateful for comments and engagement. Thanks, Theresa.

      1. Hey great comments on this post 🙂 And i want to add after reading them, that yes many times I do read your blog and not comment. You need to add the like button, that’s and easier way to see engagement when ppl just have nothing to say 🙂

        And just to clarify on the Chuck thing, I’m not petty and dont want ppl to get the wrong impression. I’m okay if a blogger never responds personally to me, but he never responded to anyone! It came across as self-centered.
        Thanks for listening.

        1. I’ve not considered the value of the ‘Like’ button so I’ll consider it.

          I got your point about Chuck Wendig and didn’t think for a second you were being self-centred. As you say, no responses at all is kind of telling.

    2. Theresa, I also found Chuck Wendig, liked what I read, and followed him for a while. And I also unfollowed him when I realized he didn’t engage with anyone.

      I don’t think it takes a heroic effort to reply to commenters (granted, the most comments I’ve ever had on one post were still fewer than 75, and most weeks there are fewer than a dozen). A blogger doesn’t even have to reply to more than a handful each time, but just enough that people recognize that the comments are seen and appreciated.

      I follow a number of bloggers, and two of them get a huge amount of comments for every post. One of them, Alex J. Cavenaugh, is a sci-fi author with a small press, and he answers hundreds of comments, mentioning each person by name, and goes the extra mile to comment on the posts of everyone who visits his blog. We’re talking hundreds of blogs here, but he’s faithful to reciprocate, and people love him for it. Even when I took a blog break for almost two years, he checked in on mine every so often to say hi.

      The other one, Beauty Beyond Bones, also gets hundreds of comments each week, and the blogger, Caralyn, responds to each one personally. She’s a writer and an actress, and though she’s not superstar famous, she takes the time to let people know she appreciates what they have to say.

      I may enjoy someone’s blog, but if they allow comments and yet never engage with anyone, it really turns me off. I don’t think it’s petty at all; I think we all are simply aware of the areas in which we’re willing to spend or waste our time.

      1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lynda, particularly with Theresa.

        I endeavour to always answer comments on my blog and social media. It may not be instant but I do it.

        I can’t comment on behalf of other bloggers but I do it because if someone takes the time to comment, the least I can do is to respond. I expect that gets harder as you become more popular, but as you say, answering some would be a gesture.

  2. I could have written this post. You’ve hit upon so many of the things I’ve learned over my past five-plus years of blogging. You’re absolutely right that we need to have the long-haul mindset—at least 1/3 of the bloggers who were around when I started out have given up.

    I sometimes wonder if anyone other than my faithful few commenters reads my posts, but I have to write with the knowledge that if anyone is looking for writing and editing information, they might stumble upon my stuff someday and it will be there because I’ve been consistent. The blogging community thrives on engagement, and I’ve found that for the most part, they have each other’s backs. Even so, staying present is so important. Nobody wants to listen to someone who only ever promotes themself but never supports others.

    1. It is something we need to keep doing. I can totally relate to how sometimes you feel like stopping because no one comments or responds to your sharing of posts.

      Who’s to say people aren’t reading, absorbing, and enjoying what we write, and then going about their day?

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Lynda.

  3. This is very good advice. And amusing. And encouraging, for the right reasons. If you understand that blogging is almost entirely for yourself, you’ve got a leg up on most. I don’t blog much anymore. My original intention was like yours – to establish a platform for my writer self. My problem was: it was only coming to the attention of friends and family, a few writers, and almost no readers. And, like you said, social media does not guarantee exposure. In turn, yours is one of the very few blogs (count a few fingers on one hand only) I read with any consistency, because I like your writing, I like your style, I like your humor. So, I experimented. And most successful author/marketers usually mention an expanding and stable e-mail client base as their most fruitful avenue. I chose a monthly Newsletter for that (through MailChimp.) It too is a long-game technique. But it is also reliable. Every month, every subscriber “hears” from me. It’s up to me to keep them interested. I do that by NOT talking much about writing, but about personal stuff that may interest them. In my case, that would be my non-stop travels with a backpack and a duffel, accompanied by gorgeous photos from my brother who travels with me. Every month, a consistent number of subscribers opens the e-mail … people who in time become interested in what I have to say … which eventually leads to my books. And the subscriber list grows, albeit slowly. My blog subscriber list never grew beyond an original group. My professional reviews have also introduced me to fellow writers and readers, and those now comprise 99% of my “blogs.” I’ve only included all this because of how hungry I was to know “what works,” and I came to many of the same conclusions about blogging as you. I do know this: whatever avenue you take toward exposure, over-night success only comes after many many years. So yes, you’d better enjoy the efforts for yourself, and let time reward them at its leisure. ANYWAY … for better or worse, I never comment this long on anyone’s blog post, so PLEASE take that as a compliment … not an intrusion. Okay?

    1. I am both flattered and more knowledgeable for reading your comment.

      I have considered a newsletter but I’m not keen on putting my home address on it and shelling out for a PO box address seems frivolous given how much they charge. I’m also not sure what more I would add beyond this blog. For now I’m sticking with this but maybe a newsletter will happen in the future. Thanks for sharing how you write yours. It sounds great.

      I’m pleased you follow my blog as I know how time is precious and there are so many blogs out there. Knowing my blog has been subscribed to and people are reading it each week is why I keep doing it.

      All the best with your travel and writing ventures, Joel.

  4. Loved this honest blog post. I have been blogging for a fair few years and then gave up as I seemed to be going nowhere.

    I realised recently that I do actually miss it and have re-started my posts. If it goes nowhere, so be it. I love writing it and that is all that matters to me now.

    Thanks for the great advice, It’s made me feel much better about my going nowhere blog that I just fell in love writing again

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.