It seems a bit ridiculous for me to write an instructional list on this particular topic, since Ink has only been around since February. Can I pretend that going from an average of five viewers a day to thirty equates to success? Here are my tips for creating your own (very) modestly successful, rather random book blog.
1. Pick a great name. The few readers I’ve had since the beginning can tell you that this blog has gone through two name-changes before finding its footing as Ink. What was once Armchair Author became Brushes and Pens after I actually wrote a manuscript. Brushes and Pens was a joke based on a fake Joni Mitchell song by Tina Fey, and an allusions to my visual artist alter ego. It never really fit, even from the start, and I was just waiting to think of a better name. One day, Ink jumped out at me and I knew that was it: it’s short and memorable, a quick Google search revealed no real competition using the title, and it gets right to the point. It references my reading, my writing, and my printmaking.
When I’m scanning a list of blogs, like the one this entry will appear in over on The Broke and the Bookish, I click on the names that jump out at me. If it’s more than three words long, they better be some really awesome words.
2. Keep the layout simple. My layout may be too simple for some, but the quickest way to make a blog look amateur is to have a dozen different competing fonts and textures crammed amongst every widget known to man. When formatting entries, I stick to the three main colors of this blog: teal, gray-black, and red. Visual simplicity keeps the reader’s focus where you want it: on the content. I may actually change the layout soon, now that I have more content, to a magazine style. The idea is that this will help new readers find the content that will interest them before they decide Ink is boring and navigate away.
3. Don’t write for your audience. This one is hard for me to practice sometimes, I have strong opinions but I also hate when my strongly-worded entries affront someone. By all means, write about topics that will interest your readers, but don’t write what you think they want to hear. That’s boring. Writing something shocking or novel will keep a reader engaged, writing something you personally believe is best of all. The conviction will come through in the text, and people like to feel like they’re getting to know the blogger as an individual. The header and thumbnail images used for Ink are from my original prints. For better or worse, this blog is all me.
4. Be selective. Memes and blog awards are great. A ready-made prompt to generate content can be a lifesaver, and a way to build your viewership. Everyone likes to feel that the hours behind the screen are appreciated. People also like original content. Be particular about how many memes you participate in, and how often (and where) you are posting your blog awards. Is a new viewer going to see nothing but a wall of Webbies? That’s not going to garner a repeat visit.
5. Get friendly. Go check out other blogs! Not just blogs like yours, any blog that interests you. Comment, let the writer know you like what they’re doing. Don’t be the person who only comments to say “check out my blog”. Thinking of a clever or insightful comment about what the blogger wrote is a lot more likely to get people interested in clicking through to your corner of webspace, and you might make a new and interesting blogger friend in the offing.
6. Keep it conversational. Create opportunities for readers to respond. Ask open questions in your entries. This can be really discouraging in the beginning, when no one’s reading and you feel like you’re talking into a void. Keep the faith. One day someone will stumble across your blog and be moved to respond, which can be inspiring in entirely new ways. Endless rants or pontificating lectures aren’t much fun to read, and they are a very limiting way to blog.
7. Read. A lot. This may seem like a no-brainer for a book blogger, but I’m not just talking about books. Reading trade journals, other blogs, and news aggregating sites can often inspire unique entries on the freshest topics. I get daily updates from Entertainment Weekly’s Shelf Life, which is mostly throw away advertising but has inspired a couple of popular entries here on Ink. Creativity needs a rich and varied diet, and it doesn’t hurt to be inspired by the topics people are Googling most.
8. Don’t limit yourself. Books are great, I love’em. I love writing the entries that qualify me as a “book blogger”. I also like writing the random entries about television shows and cupcake ATMs. Most of the concrete positive feedback I’ve received about Ink has been about the range of posts, the pleasant surprises that pop up in my feed. People who come for the books will stick with you through a digression about popular science or molecular gastronomy. Good writing is good writing, and that’s all you.
9. Participate. This is the flip-side of being selective. When an opportunity comes along that suits you as a blogger and the future you envision for your blog, hop on that train! Top Ten Tuesdays was a natural place for Ink to go after 30 Days of Books Ended. I like to make lists, it guarantees an entry at least once a week, the topics suit the content of my blog, and it puts Ink on a clickable list of related blogs. Win, win, win. Play nice and win.
10. Have fun. Otherwise, what’s the point?