105 Ways to Give a Book

Blog Advice II

I got such good blogging advice in my comments that I’m making it into another post — under the assumption that many of you didn’t come back to read the comments. I had started off with two bits based on major things I’d noticed:
  1. All blogs should have dates on their posts. (Most blogs do date their posts, but when they don’t, it’s wrong, wrong, wrong.)

  2. Authors and illustrators should have their personal names listed on their blogs. Also, authors and illustrators should have their books listed on their blogs. Your readers shouldn’t have to dig around for that basic information.
I had a few thoughts from readers (both in and out of the comments) that they didn’t know how to put their names and books on their blog without feeling like it was too much somehow. My answer: Get over it. Your blog isn’t just a marketing tool, but that is one aspect of it in this Internet age. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be low-key. I found a couple of examples of author and illustrator blogs that say who they are and what they wrote.

Blogger wins in my book for being most like a website in format, so there are lots of sites using Blogger that work well. I’ll point to Silberbook-Blog, because his “About Me” is short, relevant, and mentions his book by name. He also has a picture of the book cover, which is very important. People are more likely to remember the book cover image than the title — take it from a librarian. As an illustrator, Nicole Tadgell is on the right track, showing her picture and the covers of all of her books. I’d suggest that Nicole move her “About Me” to the top of the sidebar, with her books underneath. Also, if possible, to make that line-up of book covers the background of the header. (MotherReader pimps your blog!)

LiveJournal doesn’t seem nearly as compatible with the best format for personal marketing, given how hard it was for me to find good examples. At the minimum, you need your book, LiveJournal name, and personal name. As an example, I’ll use the blog of Tracie Vaughn Zimmer. The blog doesn’t list all of her books, but does provide a link to her website directly under her name. Laura Purdie Salas seems to have made the LiveJournal template work with her picture and her book shown in a decent size.

After looking at blogs for examples, now I would add that not only should authors/ilustrators should have their personal name and books on their blog, but that they should have them at the top of the sidebar along with contact information and their website link.

But enough from me — listen to Gail Gauthier, author and longtime blogger who commented:
I think authors really need to understand that a blog is not a website and that they need a traditional website as well as a blog. I often look up authors after I’ve read a book, and I’m always surprised to find writers who have only a blog or a LiveJournal. Basic info — background on the books, author bio, new books that are in the works, etc. 73151; will often be discussed in the blog, but for a newcomer it’s essentially buried there in hundreds of posts and inaccessible. Whereas with a website, it should be quick to find.
Colleen Mondor, author, longtime blogger, and primo interviewer, adds:
Following up on Gail’s comment — having a blog separate from a site is fine but it should be very easy to navigate between the two. Sometimes you can’t find the blog link from the site or vice versa. You can have the blog as the main point of your site though (like at Chasing Ray) and then just link off of that to pages about your books, etc. That would work well if blogging is your main point.

My main pet peeve is trying to find how to contact some writers. It should be obvious — either on their main page or “about” page how to send an email (if they want email). If I can’t find the email address in a couple of clicks then you likely won’t hear from me, which could mean losing an interview op.

I also can’t stand blogs that only exist to update on news about publication status, etc. This is news and you can have a news page (if you want to run reviews, signing dates, awards, etc.) but putting it into a blog just shows that you don’t want to blog and/or you don’t know what a blog is for. Readers want to know about you or what you’re interested in — not the latest review. Justine Larbalstier and Scott Westerfield are great YA bloggers with big followings that everyone should read to see how it is done well.
There are other gripes that people mentioned that apply to all blogs. Automatic music players were generally not appreciated. Also on the annoying list was SnapShots, with its little window that pops up to show a screenshot of the link. Commenters mentioned that long sidebars are harder to download and read. Dead links are universally despised.

If you use acronyms — like ALA, SCBWI, etc — refer to the whole group name first. If your library has a blog, the city and state should be included, since — surprisingly — there is more than one Springfield Library in the United States.

On writing tone, one commenter suggests that whining be kept to a minimum, while other reminds us watch the snark. Or in other words, “Don’t be a [jerk].”

Oh, and you have to code your links. It’s rare that bloggers write out website addresses, but it looks so bad. I’ve found that you can search for html code pretty easily for almost anything. I’d like to show the code for links, but I can’t, because it keeps putting it in code! Well, go to WebSource to find what you need. (Or, I suspect, someone in the comments will figure out how to share this information.)


Shelli (srjohannes) said...

great tips thanks :) I may link to this when in my marketing tips tommorrow :)

teacherninja said...

Thanks for sharing! I'm trimming my sidebar now/

jonathan said...

Further to the comments about authors having separate blogs and websites, my suggestion is that they (blog & website) are the same thing. Westerfeld and Larbalestier are already mentioned so I'll use them as examples. Their "blogs" and "websites" are not different things that are linked, they are part of the same thing.

This can easily be done with wordpress blogging software (I'm not sure about blogger) by having a static landing (home) page that links to bio, books, blog, etc.

Also, in response to the comment about not using a blog for "news" items. I have to disagree. I think using blogging software to present your "news" items is perfect as I can easily subscribe to your RSS feed and be up to date with important news.

Anonymous said...

I like it when an author has a blog built into their website. Like one stop shopping! And to tell you the truth, while I'm a WordPress girl myself, I hate to see authors blogging on blogger, although I definitely read plenty that do. I know it's free. I guess that's why I wonder why they don't shell out a few bucks for a domain name that is all their own. I'd rather see them self hosting. But that's just me.

Speaking of "pimp your blog" we have a blogging tips group over a Book Blogs Ning (I haven't seen you there). We do exactly that. Submit your blog for a review from fellow readers for a fresh look. I think we even cover how to write out code without it executing!


MotherReader said...

Jonathan, you're right about being able to have static pages being the issue and it does stretch out ideas of the meaning of a "website."

Natasha, using Blogger and having a blogspot domain are different things. I use Blogger, but I did buy my domain name. It certainly is worth thinking about for authors. Oh, and thanks for the reminder about the Book Blogs Ning. I need to put it on K Central and play around with it myself.

Beth Kephart said...

I read. I learn. I ponder, hmmm: What should I be doing better? Thank you for this.

Colleen said...


What I meant about the news is that some authors use blogs solely for publication updates. This means their blog is just full of dates as in "book is released" then "book signing dates and locations as follows..." and then "book is nominated for award" etc. That is all fine information but really - do you think someone who likes the book is going to be return everyday (or even every week) to find out if paperback rights have been sold? You have to have more than just book news if you want a blog to be a viable significant part of your site. Neil Gaiman is the master at this and certainly another author to emulate.

Chris Barton said...

Your timing with these posts couldn't be better, as far as I'm concerned, as I'm at the point where I need to seriously rethink my blog. After nearly four (seemingly never-ending) years of it being a precursor to my book, it's on the cusp of being a complement to a published book and to me as a published author. My blog can't stay the same, and your posts are helping me consider where it goes from here. Thank you!

jonathan said...

Colleen, ok I see where you are coming from. I just deal with blogs differently to how you have described. I don;t visit blogs every day or week to check if they are updated but use RSS feeds to keep up. So if a particular author only blogs "news" type articles and I find them useful or interesting, then I just subscribe and get a notification every few months when they post something.

However, when authors don't put this information in a blog format (with RSS or email updates available) but just update a static page, I'll never see it. I like too many authors to visit all of their sites every day or week.

Having said that, I agree with your main point and I much prefer an author who actually has some things to say and am more likely to subscribe to them than a pure news blog.

laurasalas said...

Mary Lee--Thanks for using my blog as an example! And, looking at my blog with fresh eyes after reading your post, I realize that somewhere along the way, I've lost the sidebar graphic that linked to my website! And that's where people can easily contact me from. Am off to fix that right now. I hadn't even noticed.

And I've long known my blog link isn't that easy to find from my site. I'm going to change that, too, this weekend.

Thanks for the great tips!

Anonymous said...

I totally forgot about blogger pointing to your own domain. I guess that's what I like to see. Own domain (speaking of authors). But I must admit that when it looks like blogger, I assume it's hosted with blogger.

Nicole Tadgell said...

Thanks for mentioning my blog! I admit, I've been using it as a substitute website while I try to fix the real one (lord knows how long that will be!) and I've found it frustrating that important posts get lost with time. Then I figured out how to make links of posts and group them together under a title. And I'll move the About Me up - thanks for the tip!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post -- there's a lot here to think about when it comes to making my blog better...

Saints and Spinners said...

Neil Gaiman doesn't code his links! How does he get away with it? Oh yeah, he's Neil Gaiman.

After I publish each post, I check to make sure that all of the links actually go to the pages I want them to go. Rarely, I'm in a rush and and don't do that. Without fail, that is the time I've either submitted the wrong link or a broken link.

Anonymous said...

SnapShots! Annoying! Intrusive! Make it go away!

Vivian Mahoney said...

As always, great tips. You totally rock for sharing all this info.