Monday, December 8, 2014

Sprucing up the blog

the US cover =)
Today I have Robin Houghton, applauded author and compiler of BLOGGING FOR WRITERS and BLOGGING FOR CREATIVES. In other words, she knows blogging! I was flabberghasted when she asked if she could use me in her book. And now, I'd like to share some more with you all about her and I twisted her ear to get some "free" advice, too...

TT: Now that I'm published, I have less and less time to blog, but I keep at it. How do you balance blogging and publishing with day-to-day life?

RH: I find planning ahead really helps to focus me and keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. This means having an editorial calendar and being realistic about what I can manage. If time is tight, I keep it short – short can be good – I love Seth Godin’s blog, and if he can find the time to blog every day, there’s no excuse for me not managing once a week!  I don’t always stick to the plan, but I think it’s important to stay flexible – my feeling is that life gets in the way and there’s no point beating up on yourself if you’ve missed a blog post.

TT: I've found marketing to be one of the hardest things about publishing. What is your best marketing advice?

RH: Ooh, that’s a big one! I think we can all debate the merits of the various marketing strategies and whether social media, speaking at conferences or mailshots work for selling books. But I think the one crucial essence of marketing is putting yourself in the shoes (and mindset) of your audience. For writers this means first of all your readers, but it also means the publishing industry – everyone from publishers, agents & editors to booksellers and books bloggers. Understanding a person’s viewpoint is the first step towards connecting with them. Dan Blank is someone I admire a lot, and he talks about building your author platform one reader at a time. I think social media makes this possible in a way that traditional broadcast methods alone can’t do.

TT: Blogging has been an awesome tool as a launching pad into writing for me. Now, I'm branching out. How do you feel about managing a website? or a newsletter? Would you recommend these additional formats for writers?

RH: I think if you start with a blog, then a separate website may be redundant – blogging platforms allow you to build static pages, so anything you’d put on a website could sit on your blog. Having said that, I know authors (and publishers) sometimes prefer to have separate website purely for publicity and promotion. Personally, I think if you’re starting out or self-publishing then keep it simple and stick with a blog. 

A newsletter is another thing – the advantage of building an email list is that you have a method of contacting your fans directly when you want to invite them to something, or have something to sell, or an exclusive offer, or want to survey them, or reward them. An email list is yours to build and nurture – if anything happened to your blog or website you’d still have your list of people who have opted-in to hearing from you. Mailchimp is free for up to 2,000 subscribers and it’s easy to put a sign-up box on your blog. If you’re thinking of monetising your list (for example, offering ebooks or courses) then take a look at Aweber.  A newsletter doesn’t have to be long. Minimise the work involved by re-using existing material (blog posts, articles or extracts) and supplement it with something topical or a brief update on a current project. Send something regularly to the list but don’t over-promise – better to say they’ll receive “regular updates” (which leaves it open) rather than “weekly news” which might become a burden.  A newsletter can work well alongside a blog – put it onto your editorial calendar, prepare and schedule ahead as much as you can and use a tool like Buffer to keep your social networks aware of the newsletter and encourage subscriptions.

TT: As for social media, do you have any tips for those of us who need to utilize Twitter more effectively (I'm a twitter twit!)

RH: Lots! Here’s a recent post on the subject – Seven Things to do on Twitter This Week
I suppose my number one tip would be to segment the people you follow into lists, then use a dashboard like Hootsuite and you can create columns for each list. For example, I’m following around 1,500 people which is impossible, really. So I have lists – which include things like ‘Poetry magazines’, ‘Poets’, ‘Publishers’ and ‘Twitter Buddies’ (those who I often chat with, or who retweet or favourite my tweets). By putting people into those smaller groups it makes it easier to follow their tweets.

TT: And finally, could you tell us a little about what's coming up next for you?

RH: Well 2015 is shaping up quite well – I have more guest blog appearances lined up and possibly some in-person events, I’ve another title launching in March called ‘The Golden Rules of Blogging (and When to Break Them)’ which will be fun to promote, as it’s a little different from my other blogging books – less instructional, more entertaining you might say! I’m also working on a new & updated edition of Blogging for Creatives which the publisher tells me is still very popular


the UK cover!
On the poetry front, I’m a founder member of a poets’ publishing collective called Telltale Press, And we’re expecting to have at least 3 more poets joining us, so I’ll be involved in publishing their chapbooks and publicising the Press with events and readings. It’s fun to be on both sides of the publishing process and I enjoy promoting other writers’ work. Alongside that, I’m hoping to see my poems in more magazines, but that’s in the lap of the gods...

Thanks so much for inviting me onto your blog, Tara, and for contributing to ‘Blogging for Writers’ – I was incredibly lucky to find so many great writers willing to share their blogging wit and wisdom!

I don't know about you all, but I learned some more great info today - and I love that! Thanks for opening up to us, Robin! And thanks again for the opportunity!


Robin Houghton has over two decades of experience in marketing and communications, formerly with Nike, then running her own business Eggbox Marketing since 2002 specialising in online. She now works primarily with writers and publishing industry professionals to help them make the best use of social media. Robin writes blogs on social media and poetry and has been a guest blogger for a number of sites including Social Media Today and MarketingProfs. She is a published poet and a commercial copywriter for web and print, and an experienced trainer and conference speaker. Her first book 'Blogging for Creatives' was a best-seller and resulted in two more commissions, 'Blogging for Writers' and forthcoming in 2015 'The Rules of Blogging (and How to Break Them)', both published by Ilex in the UK and Writers Digest Books in the US.


Buy the book:
or on Amazon UK

20 comments:

Heather Holden said...

Great interview! Never thought about dividing people into lists on Twitter before. I'm following nowhere near 1500 people yet, but I can easily see how that'd be useful!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks for the link to the Twitter tips!
I can't imagine not blogging, and since my blog is my website, I'm sure I'll be doing it for a very long time.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Great interview! I used to have a website and a blog, and it did become redundant. Now I have everything on my blog, with different pages for different things, like ebooks and other publications, etc.

Sarah Foster said...

Great interview! I love all of the Twitter tips.

A Beer For The Shower said...

Great interview! We too tend to think that a static website is redundant when we have the blog. We just add static pages to the blog and let that serve as our homepage.

Also, we just plain gave up on Twitter. Everyone on Twitter follows hundreds of people they can't possibly keep up with, and we got sick of shouting into the empty vastness of the Internet. :)

cleemckenzie said...

Being organized is the key. . .in my case that's only sometimes, but I do think it helps to have a strategy for keeping up with the demands of promotion.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Being flexible is awesome advice. Thanks Robin!

(Tara, seriously, you were shocked to be included? Lady, you put the awe in awesome!)

dolorah said...

Great insights and tips Robin. thanks.

Hello Tara.

Christine Rains said...

Fantastic interview and awesome tips. I need a little more organization in my life to find a balance. My blog is my most powerful tool as a writer. I always look for ways to improve.

Rena said...

Great interview and awesome advice. I do feel like marketing and blogging are crazy hard sometimes. I've been thinking about dropping the blog, but I keep coming back.



Total side note, but did blogger just lose it's privacy clearances today or what? All the sites have captcha.

ukpoetgal said...

Thanks so much Tara and everyone for your comments! And yes, Elizabeth, I agree that Tara shouldn't be shocked to be in the book, she's a fabulous role model IMHO.

Chrys Fey said...

Awesome interview! I'm not on Twitter yet but I plan to so these tips will come in handy. :) Thanks!

klahanie said...

What an insightful interview and thanks for that.

Blogging for writers is certainly a most valuable resource. As for me, I blog just for the heck of it. Or have a dog take over.

I can assure you I'm not a robot. An android, maybe :)

Gary

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Thanks for the interview! Really good tips and ideas here on blogging and social media. I feel like getting the blog going is the hardest part, and then maintaining it isn't as difficult and well worth the trouble.

Liz A. said...

I'm terrible at Twitter, too. I did know about lists, but I haven't utilized them.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Wonderful interview. I learned a great deal. Thank you!

The Silver Fox said...

Terrific interview!

Beth Ellyn Summer said...

great tips! I still consider myself a newer blogger (just over a year at it) but I'm also a dork who plans things months in advance lol so I find that helps. Overall when my writing needs more focus I do worry I'm letting the blog down!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tara .. what a great guest with some amazing tips and tricks - this post of Robin's has come at just the right time ... lots of interesting ideas here ... thanks so much to you both - cheers Hilary

Emilyann Girdner said...

I love mailchimp and this is all great advice. Thank you Robin and thanks Tara for having Robin. What a great post :)