To Blog or not to blog?

Today’s blog guest is one of the few bloggers I visit religiously. Her posts are funny, sassy, informative and relevant, plus she has a stellar line-up of visitors.

Please welcome debut Carina Press author Rachael Johns who’s novel ONE PERFECT NIGHT is about to hit the shelves!

So Rachael, to blog or not to blog… What was the tipping point for you? When did you decide you were going to become a regular blogger?

I had to actually go back and look at my first blog post to work out the answer to this question because I really couldn’t remember what made me decide to start writing a blog and unfortunately I must have had a blog before the current one that I can’t even remember (see how organised I am), because the first post I ever wrote was about choosing a pseudonym and changing to my new blog. But I think there were a few reasons I started. One, I wanted to get an online presence, so that when I sold a novel, I’d already have a place where I was known. Two, I loved reading a number of blogs and commenting and I wanted in on the fun. Three, I wanted to document my writing journey. My blog is mostly about the highs and lows of writing and my experiences writing my books, going to conferences and reading.

I think you’ve achieved all three of those, Rach! (I should have asked a question about pseudonyms since so many writers use them – maybe another blog topic!) How did you go about setting up your blog?

I looked at both WordPress and Blogger and at the time, decided I liked Blogger better. Now I’m not so sure and am seriously thinking of switching my blog and website to WordPress hosting soon. It’s easy to set up a free blog and I think if you’re just beginning writing or don’t have a contract yet, it’s a nice in-between before organising a website. Having a blog gives you a web presence. All you do is go to www.blogger.com or www.wordpress.com and follow the sign-up links to create a new blog.

I use WordPress and for the most part it’s easy. Unfortunately from time to time it defeats me and I have to call on the techs…)

You have some wonderful ideas. How do you decide what topic you’re going to blog about? Having decided the topic what sort of research do you do?

Thank you, I’m not sure I agree, but thanks. J I’m continually looking out for and thinking about things that would make good blog posts. I have a little notebook near my computer where I write down possible blog post ideas. Often while hanging the washing, I’ll think of something – it’s often a problem or opinion I have about writing or something to do with writing. I don’t do a lot of research for my blog posts, rather put forward my thoughts and opinion on something and try to get a discussion going by asking other people to comment and share their ideas.

One of my favourite blog posts was my post about Second Hand Bookshops – it turned into a bit of a debate on whether they were good or bad things for writers. The post is here if you’d like to read it: http://rachaeljohns.blogspot.com/2011/10/truth-about-second-hand-bookshops.html The best thing about this post is that I was enlightened by the commenters about other ways to look at Second Hand bookshops, which I’d previously been adamantly against. It’s always good to get comments from both readers and writers to get both sides of a debate as well.

I have a regular spot called “Theory on Thursday.” This started because I love craft books but don’t actually usually read much of them. I wanted to know what craft books other people couldn’t live without, so I started by inviting friends on the blog to talk about their favourite writing craft books. From there, the segment has grown – I’ve had guests I met on Twitter and Facebook as well and the topic isn’t limited to craft books, although it’s still about the theory side of writing.

The post on second-hand book stores is fascinating. I’ve always been a believer in the ‘any reader is a good reader’ adage but I can see other angles as well.

How do you measure your blogs effectiveness or appeal?

I LOVE it when readers comment – this always gives me such a thrill (similar to getting a letter in the post) – and this tells me people are reading the blog. However, I also use StatCounter (www.statcounter.com) which tracks visits to my site and lets me see how many people pop by. This number is always a LOT bigger than the people who actually leave comments, so that’s very reassuring.

I must admit to once wondering if blogs, Twitter, etc were affective avenues for increasing readership and promoting a book, but now I strongly believe they do. I had Shona Husk (www.shonahusk.com) as a guest for Theory on Thursday a while back and then a lady on Twitter told me she’d bought Shona’s book because of her guest post. This woman hadn’t even left a comment on the actual blog.

I’m always fascinated by what blogs generate comments. Sometimes the most innocuous rushed post gets swamped then something I labour over for hours has a large number of visitors but only my loyal stalwarts comment. Wonderful to hear your blogs work through the twitter connection as well!

How much time do you spend preparing a blog?

That depends on how long it is. I type and think quickly, so the blog posts I write myself often don’t take longer than five to ten minutes. The ones that take the longest are actually the guest posts, because then I have to take quite a bit of time formatting and placing the photos, etc in good spots.

Social media is almost an integral part of a writer’s life in the twenty-first century. I know you’re active on Face Book, twitter as well as maintaining your blog. How do you prioritise?

I’m very erratic in all three places unfortunately. Bob Mayer said at the recent RWAus conference that for a blog to be affective you really need to update at LEAST once a week but three times was better. I aim to follow Bob’s three-times-a-week rule but often only succeed at twice. As for Facebook and Twitter – I’ve learnt to treat them a bit like a party. Don’t stress too much about keeping up but go in when I can (once or twice a day) and see what’s happening. While I there, I respond to what I can. I also make sure to check my mentions at least once a day and always respond when someone has Tweeted me. And I used Tweetdeck lists to make sure I don’t miss anything important from good friends or editors.

I find I can do things like write a blog post and check-in on Twitter and Facebook when my surroundings are NOT conducive to writing. So I squeeze these things in odd moments and try and use my longer chunks of free time (LOL) for actual book writing.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given about blogging or advice you’d like to share?

Aside from Bob’s three-times-a-week rule, I’d say the best thing I’ve ever been told is to try to get the readers to interact by asking them questions at the end of a blog post. And I’m also VERY careful to reply to blog comments. Nothing annoys me more than authors who blog and don’t respond to their reader comments. It’s a pet hate of mine J

Now, following her own question rule, Rachael has a question for Helene’s readers:

I visit a fair few blogs on a regular basis. I have my favourites but would love to hear what blogs YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT???

Thanks so much for having me Helene. I LOVE your blog and your books J

And thanks for being such a wonderful guest, Rachael! Congrats on your new release and can’t wait to read it!!

ONE PERFECT NIGHT:

Peppa Grant’s fellow employees may call their new CEO Mr. McSexy, but she’s also heard that he’s aloof and distant.Cameron McCormac certainly seems cold toward Christmas when she meets him at the company’s annual party…but he’s also the sexiest man Peppa has ever seen. And when he offers to forgive the damage she accidentally caused to his expensive car in exchange for accompanying him to his family’s holiday get-together, she agrees.

Cameron needs a date to the family party to get his matchmaking relatives off his back. Their chemistry is instant and undeniable, leading to an incredible one-night stand. But Peppa wants love and family, while Cameron’s only interested in temporary pleasure. When their relationship takes an unexpectedly serious turn, will he run the other way—or will he give love a second chance?

Author Bio

Rachael Johns is an English teacher by trade, a mum 24/7, a chronic arachnophobic, a supermarket owner by day and a writer by night. She rarely sleeps. Rachael received The Call from Angela James telling her Carina wanted to publish her book on April Fools Day and, when she told her friends, half of them wondered if it was a big joke. Luckily it wasn’t. As an active member of Romance Writers of Australia, Rachael has finaled and placed in a number of romance writing contests. Each success is uplifting and publication is her dream but even if none of this happened, she’d still write. It’s a much better option than ironing, which she refuses to partake in. Ever.

Find Rachael at

Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rachael-Johns/260103224001776

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/RachaelJohns @RachaelJohns

Blog:  http://www.rachaeljohns.blogspot.com/

Website: www.rachaeljohns.com

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18 thoughts on “To Blog or not to blog?

  1. Hi Cath, I like the idea of using blog visits as rewards. That might even keep me focused on the writing task. Thank you!

    And if you find where those missing hours go please let me know…

  2. Lol, Rachael, I love learning about other people’s creative process and being reassured that I’m not alone in my obsessions, insecurities and mastery of procrastination. Of course doing all that ‘learning’ is my favourite form of procrastination 🙂

  3. Lovely interview Rach! and Helene.
    I’m one of those readers who rarely comments 🙂 Sometimes I only have enough time to read – or I leave the page open and read it in snatches through the day, or sometimes days later. Comments happen if there’s time. I don’t know where the hours go but they vanish faster than I like! I do find blogs interesting…and I use them as a reward!
    Cath

  4. Helen – my favourite blog posts are those about other writers’ processes too. Love hearing how different we all are, and I also love it when I hear of someone’s who has a similar process to me. Makes me feel like making I’m not faking this gig!

  5. Hi Cathryn – I’ve been wondering the same sorts of things as you lately. I’ve noticed a huge drop in comments on my blog, although like Helene says, the stats show I’m still getting visitors. Like you, I often read things that first spark my interest on Twitter or FB. 🙂

  6. Thanks for dropping by, Helen.

    I suspect that, as we’re all time poor, the short sharp posts work better than the longer in-depth ones. I know I’m guilty of clicking off if a post is much more than a page in length… Although having said that if it’s fascinating then I’ll read on to the very end.

    I’ve also followed topics across several blogs in recent times and that’s been very interesting to see the themes unfold.

    Like e-pub it’s an evolving world 🙂

  7. Fabulous post Rach! and Helene.
    I have a few blogs I visit and comment on, but like most of us time is often in short supply when their are books to write. I like blogs that are upbeat and useful – not specifically about craft, but I enjoy author interviews and learning about how others authors write.I try to comment when I can. I have seen a downswing in comments though on several sites, probably due to twitter and other platforms.
    Great blog ladies.

  8. I think you may well be right, Cathryn.

    Like you I don’t follow as many blogs as I used to but I’ve read some eclectic posts I’ve found via twitter and FB. The traffic to my own site has increased but the visits are shorter. It’s the same people who leave comments – so thank you to those who do – but I have a steady stream of new visitors who presumably are finding me via other people’s links and only drop by to read, not interact.

    Face Book has also altered the way my blog feeds to my FB home page so I’m still trying to gauge what impact that’s had!

    And meanwhile there are books to write, edits to be done and aircraft to be flown!! Gotta love the relaxed author lifestyle 🙂

  9. Excellent post, ladies. Really interesting.

    With the upsurge in micro-blogging type sites, combined with our time poor lives, I’m starting to wonder about the future of blogging, especially for those of us without a well established platform or following. Although I suspect even the major sites are lagging too. I’ve certainly noticed that blogs which used to generate hundreds of comments are now only seeing half or less than that. Perhaps people are still reading, but they’re just not commenting. Or with blogs often being linked to other social media, perhaps the comments are being spread around. I’m only guessing, but it’s a curious trend.

    I used to have blogs I read religiously, but now I rarely visit them. Time’s the major factor. I can’t afford to waste hours site-hopping when I have a word count to produce, although I do make a special effort to keep up with friends’ blogs. Sadly, not always successfully! What I find now is that while my blog reading has widened, it’s often made up of one-off visits triggered by a link posted on Twitter or Facebook which have been combined with an enticing ‘click me’ comment.

  10. Hi Amanda – looking forward to more of your blog and thanks for buying OPN. I hope you enjoy it!!

    Thanks for having me Helene. I LOVE your blog too and so am excited to be here. 🙂

  11. Hello, lovely Amanda, you’re up early this morning too! Rach has done a stirling job of building a following on her blog. I’d give her ten out of ten!!

  12. Great post ladies!!! Fabulous ideas from both of you re how to best move forward with my new blog(and swapping from blogger to wp has taken some getting used to!)

    Off to buy your book Rach!!!!

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