Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Blogging with Harry--Part II

Welcome Guest Blogger Harrison McLeod from Men With Pens

More than Words – Fiction Writing Meets Technology

Part II

Posting Frequency

Another problem with fiction and creative writing blogs is erratic posting and inconsistency.

I loved the content I found (once I forced myself to stay on the silly-looking and unfriendly sites), but authors seemed very casual about their posting. They would post regularly for a week only to vanish for months. There would be four posts one day and none for the next seven days.

An efficient, attractive blog for readers has a consistent, regular blog posting schedule. You might choose once a week, three times a week or every day, but stick to the schedule and post regularly. Readers come to expect it and look forward to their "fix".

We post daily on Men with Pens. It may sound like a lot of work, but good planning and preparation makes it a breeze. We write posts when our Muse is smiling on us, and then we stockpile them, scheduling to publish automatically using the timestamp feature of our blog.

Regardless of your posting schedule, let your readers know your posting frequency and stick to it whether updates happen once, twice, or three times a week. Do what works best for you.
Don’t worry about having enough topics to write on. That’s like being afraid that you only have one book in you. You’re a writer; you’ll always have something to write about.

Real Simple Syndication

There was a time when I didn’t know about RSS and feed reading. Now I don’t know how I functioned without my feed reader.

An RSS feed stands for Real Simple Syndication. It's a method of syndicating your blog posts to reach a wider audience and make it easier for readers to keep up with your blog updates.

When a reader subscribes to your blog, they have the option of reading posts on your blog, receiving your posts through a feed reader like Google Reader or Netvibes or having your updates and comments delivered right to their email inbox.

You should stay updated on other blogs using a feed reader, too. It's good to know what others are talking about and discussing. Reading other blogs helps you come up with more content for your blog.

Go to Google Reader, sign up for free, and enter your favorite blogs. You'll be reading all their posts in one easy location!

Drawing Attention to Yourself
Now that you have your blog set up, you need readers. The only way you’re going to build a following is to roll up your sleeves and put in the effort to get traffic coming your way and get your name recognized.

Blogging involves more than publishing a new post each day. You have to visit other blogs to see what the competition is doing. You need to get to know the owners, their reader community and encourage them to get to know you.
  • Comment. Start commenting on other blogs. Leave relevant comments that add to the discussion. Don't drop links unless they are relevant – link-dropping is considered bad form. Provide insight to the post up for discussion. Start a conversation or keep one going.
  • Link out. When writing your own posts, link out to other relevant blog posts. The link instantly alerts blog owners that you're talking about them. They'll drop by to see what you've written and possibly become a reader or start talking about your blog on theirs. When you receive a link to your posts from other bloggers, drop by their blogs and thank them.
  • Guest Post. Invite other writers to write a guest post for your blog – the more recognized the author, the better. Know the major league players in your niche and get in touch with them to offer a guest post for their blog, too.
Choose Wisely
Creating a theme and image for your blog is probably one of the most enjoyable aspects of starting a new blog in the first place. With so many designs to choose from, it’s often difficult to settle on just one look that fits you right.

When selecting a blog theme, look beyond the pretty colors and attractive images. Pretty doesn't get you anywhere if the blog is not user friendly and isn't functional for your readers. Consider how the blog theme is laid out and how it will work before choosing.

Is your blog going to be straight text, or do you want to include videos or other types of media? Do you like a magazine-style page to highlights various posts? Do you prefer a chronological posting pattern?

Think about how you want to lead the reader through your blog – because, make no mistake, you are your reader's tour guide. You might have written some very good posts, but if your readers can’t find them, those articles will just collect dust.

It’s All What You Make It
Blogging is definitely fun; there's no doubt about it. You can be as successful as you want to be. You have plenty of good information to share and you may be doing so already, so why not take the time to present your content in the best way possible?

Don’t get stuck in the rut of the arTEESTe who is above technology and only considers writing an art. Even art involves business, and success stories treat their craft accordingly. You don’t have to sacrifice your talent - maximizing your blog isn’t selling out. It's selling into all that you could be and pushing your potential much further.

Are you ready for it?

***If you answered with a resounding, "Yes!" then head on over to Men with Pens, where you'll find more great advice on building your fiction writing business. Tap into tips, hints and tricks to push your creativity to the front lines. Better yet, grab the Men with Pens feed by subscribing here.

Harrison McLeod is the man behind the scenes at Men with Pens. He’s a forty-something freelance writer and web designer from Las Vegas, Nevada. He has a degree in illustration and over 20 years of experience in the design industry. His favorite color is red, he loves his cats, reading books, archery, and he rides a Honda VTX 1800RS.


  1. Welcome back, Harry for the conclusion of your series on the meeting of Technology and Fiction.

    I look forward to learning a lot today...but for right now I need coffee. Light snow here in Denver.

  2. thanks Harry for todays post it makes alot of sense and i did learn some things.
    Im only a reader with a reader blog but I did learn things for myself.
    Im glad i stayed up tonight to see the post before i went to bed.
    (now i need some sleep)


    So I googled, GOOGLE READER and went to it and now I have the reader.

    So where ever your reader is you have to go to that site to read all your feeds.

    They don't come into your email box unless you have gone to a blog for example and subscribed AS wanting the subscription as email? (like I do MwP)

    Now the tricky part, going to a blog and subscribing to a feed from the blog not from GOOGLE READER. Okay, back later off to try that next.

    And we still have to discuss how to install an RSS on a personal webpage or blog.

  4. Yes!! It worked. I went out in search of sites to subscribe to my GOOGLE READER.

    Not that I want to feed the tiger this am, but I could find very few if any of my favorite blogs in fiction with readers. BLEH.

    So I subscribed to a non fiction favorite, www.freelancewritinggigs.com

    VICTORY!! Then I discovered as I read the blog that JAMES is buying the site. Deb Ng is going back into the publishing world.

  5. James Chartrand - Men with PensApril 1, 2008 at 8:40 AM

    Within Google Reader, there is a search bar. Type in either the URL of a blog you like or the name of the blog, and voila.

    Feed readers really cut down on disorganization and increase the free time you have. They're convenient and you'll find your list soon expanding.

    That said, don't be afraid to unsubscribe to blogs that aren't giving you what you want. Trimming down a growing feed reader list is part of using a feed reader effectively.

    All techy questions welcome.

  6. I have learned so much Harry, most notably today that leaving a link like I did yesterday is very bad form. Shame on me. I will visit your site and hope to improve my etiquette. Thanks. Susan

  7. James Chartrand - Men with PensApril 1, 2008 at 9:59 AM

    @ Susan - Depends what kind of link you leave. If you're discussing a particular topic and you link to a post that is relevant and that contributes to the matter at hand, that's good form - it's useful, it helps others and it may resolve questions.

    But many blog sites (not very good ones) recommend literal link dropping, as in, "Great post! LINK." and nothing else.

    Another thing to consider is that if your comment is interesting enough, people have your URL with your name in the field you filled out to comment, so they'll naturally be curious, want to know more and click through via that method.

    Learning curve :)

  8. I've got a question:
    I am relatively new to blogging (since last Fall) and I am set up to read and review good Christian fiction. However, I set up my domain name thinking no one would see it except me and used a silly nickname. I'd like to change my domain name to match the name of my site but have NO IDEA how to do that!

    Publicists are contacting me with some great opportunities, and I don't want my domain name to "scare" them off.

    I'm learning a TON from these posts! Thanks everyone!



    Yesterday Cheryl asked about Blogburst. Could you explain what this is and what you think about it.

    Also can you explain what Digg, Reddit and such are and how they are helpful or not tools.

  10. Good morning all (3 hours behind the rest of the world here). Looks like James caught the heavy questions and I'm glad to see so many of you are finding your feeds :)

    @Kim: There's two things you can do:

    1. Ask your hosting service if you have the option of adding on new domain names to your account and then do just that.

    We have an account with a domain name we'd rather not use for business either. It's okay, it happens. At the time a business was the farthest thing from our mind.

    Rather than get a whole new hosting package, we bought a new domain name and added it to the account we had. Our package allows us to have up to 15 add on domains, so we've got room to grow.

    Once the domain is added, it's a separate site with a separate URL and the client need never see the funky name of the main account.

    2. If your current hosting doesn't allow for add on domains, you'll have to buy a new domain name and new hosting package.

    @Tina: RSS installation on a web page or blog is a good one to add to our Friday post questions :)

  11. Under the 'choosing wisely' category, I thought this might be a good time to retell the story of the time I accidentally put a stripper on my MySpace page.

    Or not.

  12. I got tripped up with the domain name on my personal blog on blogger. My blog is used mainly to direct people here and to give out 'Mary' new...gag.

    I started with maryconnealy.blogger.com but then I lost it.
    I've never found it again. I guess I remembered the password incorrectly. So...........
    When I tried to start it up again later, well guess what, I couldn't have maryconnealy.blo etc... cuz it was TAKEN.
    So guess what bonehead had taken it???


  13. LOL, Mary.

    You recently had one of your posts from Pistols and Petticoats picked up by a major newspaper right?

  14. I have such a love/hate relationship with computers. The really scary part is that people ask me for help all the time.

    Well, no, the REALLY scary part is that I agree to help them.

    I had Tina's husband doing something for me once. I don't think I called him in to erase the stripper. No, I got someone else to do that...after I erased her and my whole MySpace page was laid out in one column, one inch wide and seven feet long...that was fun for people to read.
    So ... hmmmmmmmm hysterical amnesia, can't remember what it was.

    Anyway, I'm trying to learn. Use smaller words please.

  15. Excellent advice on posting frequency, Harry. Advice I take here in Seekerville, but not on my own blog.

    There's two reasons for that. One, I've made a commitment to these ladies and take that seriously.

    The second reason I blog here is the reason I put off posting on my blog. Comments. I don't get any. Well, except when I have a guest who has a book to give away. Seekerville is interactive and fun. I know I have traffic or used to have because I had StatCounter.

    So why don't people talk to me? Perhaps like Camy says, they're readers at heart and just want to see what I'm talking about. Just as likely they don't belong to Blogger and can't post. Sigh.

    I'm keeping your suggestions for upping my traffic. All great stuff. Thanks!


  16. @Janet: As long as your readers know what to expect from you, no problems. I have MwP and another blog I post on as well. MwP always comes first and takes up most of my time to make sure I meet the commitment of daily posts there. On the other blog, my readers know the updates only happen three times a week. So for me, that's a Saturday or Sunday afternoon of writing 3 posts and scheduling them to release on Mon/Wed/Fri.

    @Mary: Ahhh...the joys of working with quirky code. Don't worry, I've blown up plenty of blogs and sites in my day. Always back up your site before you start making changes, and if it blows up, just upload what you had before and start over.

  17. Harry,
    Thanks for the reminder about consistently posting. I am so guilty of dropping in and then dropping out of my blog because I haven't learned all the in's and out's of blogging nor defined the purpose for myself. However, I've pre-written blogs when the muse strikes so I can attest to the efficiency you mention.

    You gave lots of technical stuff that I still need to learn about, but I'm determined. I've only recently started to click on links people send me and read a blog. I haven't left a comment until this week because I didn't feel savvy enough to know what should be said. I noticed people don't leave a signature line either--at least not here. Hmmm. Always something new to learn-gotta love it!

  18. But how do you back up a blog site?

  19. On Petticoats & Pistols we're on Blogburst and I had a blog picked up by the Chicago Sun-Times online edition. We get a notice quite often that someone has their article in some publication. There doesn't seem to be a lot of rhyme or reason to it. My blog was on missionary preachers in the early American west and what did they need to do to legally marry someone. Why would the Chicago Sun Times care about that?

    James and Harry do you have experience with Blogburst? I couldn't see it on your site, but maybe it's not always marked.

  20. @Mary: No, we're not familiar with Blogburst. Most probloggers haven't mentioned it, but it might be worth a try. Looks like it's another social media thing like Stumble or Digg (which are both very valuable in the pro-blog community)

    @Pam: If you have your own hosting, there are wizards in the control panel that help you to back up your sites. For me, I have extra files saved of all the themes on the blogs we work with. These duplicate files have the latest version of the blog's style sheet and php files for the various pages of the blog.

    If you're on a free site, you might not have the ability to back up your files as extensively. I do know that it's a good idea to export your posts every once in a while. On WP there is an option that exports posts, categories and pages, along with some other settings, to an .xml file to your desktop.

  21. What about advertising?

    What would be the value of advertising for a fiction blog?

    Does it increase traffic or is it simply a money maker?

    Do ads make money? Is that like per click or do you get paid for allowing them on your site or only if someone actually makes a purchase?

  22. You remind me of "Rush Limbaugh!"
    I know it all and no one else know anything.....Cindi

  23. I just want to say, Seekerville Rocks! I appreciate all of you and the help you are to writers--especially those like me who are addicted to contests.

  24. James Chartrand - Men with PensApril 1, 2008 at 1:56 PM

    @ Janet – I'd also toss in the suggestion to spend time observing other blogs.

    Why do their communities participate more? What tone and style of posts do they write? What seems to get people talking?

    Emulation is one of the best ways to increase community on your own blog. Try new things, different ways of posting. Link out often to others to attract readers. Be active and be present.

    @ Tina – Advertising is passive income. That means it won't make you rich or make you much money, but it *may* earn you a few dollars. They work by paying you a small cut if someone clicks through your ad and actively buys something.

    Large blogs do sometimes command 3k per ad space, so they're obviously earning more. Smaller blogs would do best to ditch advertising or go after only the best advertising that works. Adsense is dead – avoid it.

    Ad banner squares work nicely – limit them to four or six. You can also buy ad space on other blogs to drive traffic back to your site. You earn no money from them but you get people to notice you.

  25. James Chartrand - Men with PensApril 1, 2008 at 1:57 PM

    @ Windy Cindy - Actually, we know quite a bit, though we'll never know it all. And our understanding is that many people here are newcomers. We're not taking a know-it-all stance, simply an informed one.

    The question is more whether you feel you've learned something or whether you have something you'd like to learn about, no?

  26. I went and did the Google Reader thing...I think.

  27. I'm glad I missed Part I yesterday. Whew! It took the better part of an hour to catch up reading it today.

    All of the thoughts that I had while reading the comments--Blogger is user friendly; you can subscribe to follow-up comments on Blogger; the captcha is optional--were pointed out by others.

    I tried a Wordpress blog and was totally unimpressed by their template options. I stayed away from Typepad because I knew I hated going to Typepad blogs.

    I just started using Google Reader which is fine for reading but as far as I can tell, absolutely horrid for commenting. Because you still have to click on the title to go to the actual blog to participate in the comments. Does anyone know if I'm missing something?

    Other than that, I like how I can organize the blogs and star particular posts that I'm interested in on Reader.

    I recently cut the number of blogs I frequentin half, from 52 to 26. If I commented on every single blog every day, I'd never get anything done. I realized that I have some where I'm very engaged and actively commenting, some where I comment only occasionally, and some where I almost never comment. That last group falls into two categories: those where I gain a lot of information and those where one really great post sucked me in but I've haven't been as impressed since. Guess which blogs went first!

    And is this really the last part of the series, or will you be back on Friday to address in more depth some of the questions that were raised yesterday and today?

    BTW, as long as Mary and Ruth keep throwing in all those oddball comments, I'll keep reading. LOL!

  28. We have elected due to previous commitments on both of our parts not to do the follow up on this Friday.

    Two days has been exhausting.
    he he

    But I hope that Harry and James can answer most of our questions before they pass out.

  29. @Patricia: Don't be fooled by the two standard themes that come with your WP install. There are more theme options on the net than you can shake a stick at. I specialize in customizing themes for WP, so if you ever want to take another look at it, let me know.

    @Tina and everyone: Sure, there will be a follow up to this, but give us guys a chance to recover first! You all done went and wore us poor boys out! Ruthy? Quick...I need a bagel and a schmear...

  30. Thanks James, for answering the ad question.

    Re: Digg and Reddit.

    They fall under the social platform, period.

    Mary, you and Cheryl might be interested in this. I joined Digg.com and Reddit.com and PostonFire.com with my nonfiction blog

    I submit certain posts that I think shine. I haven't yet noticed a real increase in traffic but I have noticed some link backs.

    StumbleUpon.com is one platform I have not figured out the value of yet. I have it and right now it seems to be a late night web surfing tool.

    Any insights on which you think have the most value?

  31. Ah, that was a question re: Digg and Reddit. I do not know the answer.

  32. Where is Ruthy? NY Bagels and chive cream cheese coming up.

    We will do a follow up. Just not this week.

  33. Aw, Patricia, sorry you don't like TypePad. But thanks for visiting my blog from time to time anyway. I know the commenting can sometimes get quirky. Otherwise I generally love it!

    What I don't quite "get" is trackbacks. If our guest experts would care to elaborate . . . ?

    And since Ruthy hasn't popped in today, well, all I have to offer is cyber-Diet Dr Pepper and a Girl Scout cookie.

  34. WHEW! Reading the posts made me realize how much I don't know! Thanks, Harry, for visiting Seekerville and for all your great info. Luckily Tina, Camy and Mary, probably Myra, Pam and Cheryl, as well, know what you're talking about. Surely, they'll explain everything the rest of us need to know later! :)

    PS Love the info about Goodgle Reader. I'm headed there next!

  35. Yeah. What is the difference between a trackback and a linkback?

  36. I imagine Google Reader is a lot like Yahoo's blog aggregator. I have set up a separate personalized Yahoo page where I "collect" my favorite blogs. Each shows up in its own box, with the most recent posts listed along with the first 2-3 lines. Makes it easy to scan for the ones I'm interested enough in to click through to.

    Many blogs I've visited give you a choice of RSS feeds, including Yahoo. Since I already have a personalized Yahoo page, when I click on the Yahoo link, it automatically adds it to my page, after which I reorganize to suit my personal preferences.

    I used to use FeedBlitz, where all my favorite blogs came in one e-mail. As my list grew, I didn't like it as much. Yes, I could read them all in one place, but there's a lot of advertising that slows everything down. And I missed actually visiting the sites. Besides, I'd have to click through anyway if I wanted to comment.

  37. Actually, Myra you answered another question I had about Feedblitz. Thank YOU!!

    Now I just have to remember to go to my Google Reader to read my collected feeds.

    Change is good. Change is good.

    For another job I had to install Foxfire and the Google Tool Bar and gmail. It didn't take long to catch on and now I realllly love Foxfire.

  38. Harry, drat the dreaded jobs which actually procure money for me on a regular basis...

    Stupid gainful employment.

    But I've got a nice respite in mind for you guys.

    Tina, bring them in that antipasto you whipped up when you donned your great Italian housewife apron this morning, right before you had your hair done in an eighties-style updo with so much hairspray a 40 mph wind wouldn't disturb the birds nesting in it...

    And Sandra's supposed to be bringing afternoon lattes and a beverage bar, but I don't see her.

    Harry, I'm going to stop by and see you guys at home....

    If I didn't have to run between two jobs again today, I'd take the time to tell you how wonderful you both are (especially the good cop/bad cop routine, it just simply.... works. Kind of like an Armani suit with Kenneth Cole shoes. Made for each other)and how grateful we are to have you, even if you ruffled Camster a bit.

    She's young, she'll get over it and learn to appreciate your true genius for what it is.

    Or at least appreciate the cool bike!!!

    Bless you both.

    And Tina, thanks so much for arranging the boys and hosting as beautifully as always.

    Harry, I've got questions but no time, so I'll stop in.


  39. @Tina: Trackbacks and linkbacks are basically the same thing. They both serve the purpose of alerting the original author of the post that they were referenced someplace else.

    Wikipedia offers a detailed explanation here.

    Apparently there are differences in the way the information is processed.

    And Firefox rocks. After IE blew up my comp a few years back, I haven't used it since. The only problem is as a web designer, I'm always running across glitches when people view a site in the various browsers.

  40. @Ruthy: Thanks, I needed to hear that today. It was a pleasure visiting here and our door at MwP is always open.

    If anyone has questions in the future, please feel free to email me at harry at menwithpens dot ca.

  41. Is it really Firefox..all this time I have been calling it Foxfire. Thanks for not slapping me with the ruler.

  42. @Tina: I'm the diplomat of this duo, remember? :)

    It's okay, I knew what you meant.

  43. James, Thanks for the idea to look at other blogs and see what gets readers talking. Now if I had Ruthy and Mary's personalities, I guarantee I'd get more response.


  44. *****Applause*******Applause

    Thank you to James and Harry for being with us for TWO days and for explaining the techie side of blogging.

  45. Wow i love the comments. Sometimes sleeping is good cos i get lots to read.
    i just googled Google reader.
    The comment on Feedblitz was good too.
    I use it but i get frustrated cos it comes in a day or more late and i have already been to the blog mostly
    I use both ie and firefox but have noticed and it may be my computer some blogs on ie lose there info.
    Relzreviewz is one i go and cant read anything but its fine in firefox.
    I agree with coding for firefox it seems to not like some.
    I admit some blogs i go and have mainly gone in for a free book at a few sites.
    But i have several book marked and i try to post on other posts too.
    Especially if there is an interview.
    It frustrated me last christmas where 3 sites were doing the 12 authors of christmas (may have put it wrong) and where there was a giveaway alot posted when it was just the interview often only one or two posted. I actually won a book cos there was a giveaway but it wasn't stated. But i loved the info. I am cutting down blogs i visit to ones i want to support and dont want to be seen as only posting to win.
    (Please dont enter me this week)

    I have really enjoyed this topic and cant wait till Friday (saturday for me)

  46. I have a question whats the number after the name of blogs you add to googlereader?

  47. Um, Aus Jenny girl....we have postponed Friday's blog with the Dynamic Duo due to brain overload.

    But come and see us anyhow..we will have cheese blintzes.

  48. Hey Tina whats cheese blintzes.
    Hey you know i will be here.
    i have you booked marked on both computers. (although friday is book night now days use to be stargate night)
    It will give me more time to digest whats been said and work things out.

  49. James Chartrand - Men with PensApril 1, 2008 at 8:51 PM

    @ AusJenny - The number that appears with the blog when you search and subscribe is the number of Google Reader subscribers to that blog.

    It is not *all* the subscribers to that blog. There are other feed readers, like Netvibes, and Google Reader doesn't count those readers.

    A more accurate count of the blog's readership is to double the number and then add a touch.

    For example, a blog showing 250 readers probably has 600 (250 times 2 plus 100 for good measure)

  50. Thanks James thake makes sense.

  51. one totally of the wall random nothing to do with anything comment.
    I want that motorbike at the end of the blog its looks so cool.
    (Ok im on a chocolate high but you have to admit thats some machine!)

  52. In case anyone comes back to this post, I'll pose my last question again:

    How do you read and write comments to blogs from within Google Reader? If you can't, are there any services like this where you can, eliminating the need to hop out to the blog anyway?

  53. @Patricia: You can't respond to comments in Google Reader, but you can subscribe to a blog's comments if the blog has a comment feed set up.

  54. @Ausjenny: If you ever come to Vegas, I'll give you a ride on the real thing. :) It's an awesome bike, beats Harley hands down any day!

  55. Thanks Harry, so now 2010 i need to add vegas to my trip.

  56. Harry and James -

    Thanks for all the info in this post and the previous ones as well as responses in the comments.

    I missed the posts until today (Wednesday) because I forgot to check Seekerville when I was jumping around to all my regular stops.

    And the discussion on feedreaders reminded me I need to sit down at the computer one of these days and clean out my list on bloglines so I can actually start using it again.

    Bibliophile's Retreat

  57. They've been great haven't they.
    Again, thanks, James and Harry.

    Appreciate your patience and your skill and most of all your time.

  58. I'm a reader who only recently discovered Christian blogs, and I'm really enjoying them. Thank you for taking the time to post.

    I'd also love to win Petticoat Ranch. Thank you!

    cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net

  59. Back again..and the bike's still here! YAY. :-)

    Thanks for giving us lots of info and stuff to chew on!


  60. Carole, nice you found us, girlfriend!

    Welcome aboard.

    And the guys are great, both at home where they seem to have a very 'trekkie' following and on the 'road', blogging at various roadside cafes.

    So nice to have a great crew on board, and lots of visitors. I think we can all agree that the antipasto beat the heck out of Myra's single Girl Scout cookie.

    I mean, Johnson, COME ON!!!

    It's fiction, woman. You don't really have to make anything. It's pretend....


    Like workin' with flippin four-year-olds......


    Mary, pass me a glass of sweet tea, I have other places to go and I'm painfully parched.


  61. But...I like Girlscout cookies. Especially the thin mints. :)