Wednesday, May 26, 2010

secrets of a successful BLOG

in 2005, Technorati (the ultimate tracker of the blogosphere) reported: a new blog is created every second.

by 2008, the same group was tracking more than 100 million blogs.

it's now 2010, and you're trying to grow your blog following, to create a voice that can be heard over the online cacaphony. i understand why the above statistics may make you want to give up.
but a successful blog can emerge from the din. in fact, one blog that started quietly in march of this year, is now screaming louder than just about any other page in the circle of pre-published YA author blogs - netting hundreds of followers in a few short months.

don't be jealous. just Grab a Pen, and get ready to take some notes... because i present to you an interview with represented author and blogosphere sensation, the one and only:

(but you can call her Tahereh)

ej: you've been blogging since march. some people have been blogging for years and have only a couple dozen followers. you have 425! as a pre-published author, that is a fairy tale. do you have any idea how your blog exploded virtually overnight??

thmafi: um. yes and no. i mean, i don't think my blog actually exploded or anything, but i do think it's pretty cool that people like it enough to follow. i really want to say i have no idea how this happened, but that's not entirely true -- because i researched industry blogs for nearly six months. i read EVERYTHING. i watched popular blogs not only for their amazing content, but because i wondered at how and why they were successful. i studied these things pretty closely. i took the time to ask myself what *i* would want to see in a blog, and made it happen. from the aesthetics to the content -- i never post anything haphazardly.

a couple of points:

a. write with a specific group of people in mind. this helps tremendously, because having a target demographic makes it easier to customize posts. in the literary world, our interests are simple enough: we're looking for a community. we want support. we want to feel like we're not flailing, miserable, lonely and doomed to fail. we want to laugh off the bad times and smile despite the rejection that is an invariable element of the publishing world. there's enough dreariness in life that there's no need to point it out on in a space you hope to share with others. we can't stomach so many depressing things every single day; there has to be an outlet. there has to be a bright spot of hope somewhere, and as much as i try to create that in my own life, i try to recreate it on my blog.

if i had to guess at one thing, i'd say that the upbeat atmosphere i try to maintain in my small internet space is by far my most effective tool in bringing people together.

b. your blog has to look GOOD. if you have enough of a platform, this isn't always necessary, because people will want to read what you write regardless. but it's just like going into someone's house -- if their living room is cluttered and chaotic, it doesn't matter how many times they invite you to stay for tea -- you're going to want to run. you have to create a welcoming environment with soothing colors and graphics and SIMPLICITY. too much clutter is never a good thing -- especially not on a webpage. and if you have too many graphics glittering and glowing and blinking at people, it'll only serve to distract from the focus of your blog. your MAIN header. your MAIN objective. create categories, spaces, different areas that focus on different things. keep your posts clean, minimal, easy to read.

BOTTOM LINE: make things as easy as possible in every single way. links? easy to access. articles? easy to access? pictures? easy to access. everything has to be user-friendly. don't confuse people. (ej note: i should point out here that the green "grab a pen" and "TH Mafi" text above this interview are both clickable links to Tahereh's blog. i probably should have made that clear. on Tahereh's blog, anything clickable is clearly stamped with a 'CLICKY!' note. i'm learning already.)
ej: authors/bloggers often struggle to find topics to write about. you seem to have a bottomless well of ideas. what have been your most successful blog topics - the ones that drew the most hits and/or comments?

thmafi: this is hard to answer, because the response is so varied and vague. people love Funny just as much as they love Inspirational. they love Motivational just as much as they love Informational. it's not JUST content. it's about how you PRESENT that content. be focused when you need to be, be researched when you need to be, be self-deprecating when you need to be, but no matter what, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS be humble, be patient, be kind. ALWAYS.

ej: ZOMG, your blog is TOTES overflowing with voice! FOR SERIOUS, it has more voice than edward cullen has sparkles!!
do you think a consistent voice/persona strengthens your blog and why?
(if that question reads like it's in another language, you clearly haven't been reading Tahereh's blog: Grab a Pen)

thmafi: absolutely. i never even thought about this when i first started blogging because my "voice" is just my "voice". it's the same voice i use in text messages, in emails to my family, in random notes passed back and forth between friends. but in retrospect i realize the same "voice" we ache for in literature is just as important in a blog. after all, you expect readers to READ. people want to know there's a human being behind those words. so be HUMAN. be willing to laugh at yourself; don't be cold, collected, sterile or TOO PERFECT. no one wants to be friends with a machine. we like people we can relate to, people who have shared our pain and can empathize with our struggle. being sincere, being GENUINE -- this is your voice. embrace it.

ej: are you - and if so, HOW are you marketing your blog? do you cross-pollinate with tweets and forum link love?

thmafi: i don't market my blog except through twitter. i always let my twitter-friends know whenever i've posted a new blog entry. i try to keep up with the blogroll on the AbsoluteWrite forums, but sometimes i forget to update it. so... no, not really marketing it.

ej: your blog posts often come with fun and fancy graphics (that i believe you create yourself, right?), which can only mean your blogs take twice as long to put together as everyone else's. how do you possibly find the time?

thmafi: yea, if i remember correctly, every single graphic you've ever seen on my blog thus far has been of my own creation. so yes. my blog posts sometimes take FOREVER to make -- sometimes upwards of a few days, sometimes a few hours. (wow. and i thought i spent a lot of time on my blog!) i don't think i've ever written a post in under an hour. in addition to writing the post itself, i read and reread my posts for editing, formatting, grammar-mistakes, etc., at least five times before i even post it. and then i read and reread the post at least a few more times after i post it. i hate coming across blog posts that seem to have been written carelessly, riddled with errors of every kind. i never want to be that way with my readers. i never want to let them down. but i have no idea where i find the time, haha. i think the answer is i don't. i just never seem to sleep.

i don't mind though -- i blog because i love to do it.

ej: what made you decide to start blogging (and in what way is that decision related to your writing, if at all)?

thmafi: i've always wanted to blog. always. i've loved the idea since middle school. i had a couple of personal blogs in high school, and random people would always find me and tell me i was funny and/or strangely entertaining. i'd always be surprised that someone thought my trip to Home Depot was hilarious. i've always been comfortable with words, but i didn't want to start blogging as a WRITER until i had an agent. in a strange way, having an agent gave me a sense of purpose -- a kind of validation for devoting this much time to a blog. i think i needed that push.
(Tahereh is represented by Amy Tipton of Signature Literary Agency.)

but i also think it's incredibly important to build a platform as an author. i think anyone interested in pursuing the literary dream should have internet presence. the internet is our oyster these days, and we need to take advantage of it. it's FREE. it's a free resource. it's incredible. and the possibilities are ENDLESS. we just have to know how to use it.

ej: pay it forward! whose blogs inspired/impressed you and whose would you recommend following?


ej: this one is open. give us your best advice for bloggers looking to grow their ranks of followers/besties.

thmafi: this is a dangerously open-ended question. i could write a BOOK in response to this question. but if i have to boil it down to a few simple points, i'd reiterate the importance of being sincere. reach out to others and spare people a comment or two on their blogs. be kind. be supportive. don't bring angst and negativity into the blogosphere. connect with people on a human level while supplying them with something they can actually use -- information of any kind, as long as it's PERTINENT. and even then, don't go overboard. mix it up. don't be too serious or too outlandish all the time, because people will get bored. don't be pretentious and don't OVERSHARE with personal details. leave people wanting more.

it sounds kind of complicated, but it's not -- it's called being human. we have a million different interests and emotions, and our moods are constantly changing. think about yourself and your own interests. think about the things blogs have done that've turned you off.
and then AVOID all of those things.

but no matter what, don't forget to SMILE. :D
and i hope this interview made all of you smile.
now, the best way to better your blog is to watch and learn, just as Tahereh suggested. so I suggest you start by observing how she does it. check out the "Grab a Pen" blog at:


Remilda Graystone said...

This was a great interview! Had lots of great points. Thanks, Tahereh and ErinJade!

erinjade said...

thanks remilda!

by the way to readers - i noticed my blog doing some funny things with colors depending on which computer i checked it from today.

if the Q vs A colors aren't different when viewing from your own browser, i apologize. i'm not sure how to fix it. everything is formatted correctly. :/

Lydia Kang said...

Yay Taherah and ErinJade! Great interview. I've been wondering about how you get that magic going on your blog. Thanks for sharing!

Matthew Rush said...

Great interview, Tahereh really does rock. Interesting to see your answers here too TH, as the voice is clearly different.

Having followed your blog for a while, read your flash fiction at Ink's blog, and seen your interview here, it is quite obvious you have a talent with the written word.

Anyone who didn't know that obviously doesn't read her blog. Go do it.

Oh and EJ, thanks for this. The color thing could be due to links that are visited/not visited, so be sure to sign out of blogger and use a different user/computer to make sure what your blog will look like to readers!

New follower here, nice to meet ya!

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Great interview! Thanks to Tahereh for playing along, and to her parents for the cleverness of the DNA they passed along.

And thanks, erinjade, for the great idea and interview. Sharply done, I say, sharply done.

Simon C. Larter said...

Of course, you could always just go with snarky. People like snarky too. Not as much as they like nice and bubbly and sweet, but if I tried to be nice and bubbly and sweet, I'd end up like diet soda: nice on the first sip but saccharine and bad for you in the long run. (I don't think that simile worked. Meh, it's all I've got.)

Great interview, ladies. Happy, happy, wheeee!

(In unrelated news, I may have overcaffeinated myself this morning.)

MBW aka Olleymae said...

Awesome interview, Erinjade!!!

Great points, Tahereh!!! (lots of them I've had to learn the hard way)


Tahereh said...

thanks so much for the interview erinjade! and thanks so much to everyone for your kind and generous comments!!


erinjade said...

thanks everyone!! loved reading all your comments.

it was my first blog interview, but Tahereh made it easy. she's the BEST. :)

A Pen In Neverland: Angela Peña Dahle said...

Very nice post on TH. Mafi! Enjoyed both the questions and the responses. Way to go guys! Thanks bunches!