AWP 2012: The Seven Platitudes of Blogging

March 3, 2012 § 1 Comment

By Betsy Andrews Etchart

 “What about Blog?: How Blogging Can Propel Your Career & Polish Your Craft” / Sarah Klenakis, Turi Fesler, Claire Bidwell Smith, Rachel Vogel, Caitlin Leffel (March 1, 3:00-4:15)

Don’t blame the panelists for the platitudes. They just help me, a relative newcomer to the blogosphere, remember the key points of the panelists, all of whom are gravitational forces in the blog-to-book universe.

1. It’s not the size, it’s how you use it. 

The size of your blog following, that is. If you fantasize about turning your web-baby into the next Julie and Julia, and are wondering just how big a fan base it takes, even the four blogging experts on this panel (Turi’s business card actually reads “, Blogging Relations Strategist), admitted to being a little fuzzy about how follower numbers translate into book sales. The magic number the panelists tossed about is 10,000 unique visits per month. But then they agreed there is no magic number. Because if your number is significantly smaller, it’s the quality–and involvement–of those followers that makes the difference between bestseller or bomb on Amazon.*

2. Do Unto Others as You Would Have Others Do Unto You

The ideal follower is well-connected, has multitudes of followers of her or his own, and is a genuine webfriend–which isn’t an oxymoron so much as a new entity spawned in the webpage age. A genuine webfriend is a member of a community of web-goers who are connected and concerned about the success and well-being of their fellow web-goers. To gain your loyal following, venture out into the ether and get involved. In addition to utilizing the built-in communities provided by platforms like WordPress, Typepad, and Tumblr, Claire suggests emailing bloggers you like, and commenting frequently. Begin dialogues. Start relationships. Offer to guest-blog and ask others to guest blog for you. In your pitch, discuss how you can mutually benefit from cross-blogging. Claire ups her online value to webfriends by tweeting book suggestions, other blogs she likes, and great products she’s discovered. And yes, many of those products sponsor her. Which leads us to Platitude #3:

3. Don’t try to be who you’re not

The ethics of blog sponsorship? The panelists agreed that if you’re an authentic fan of a product and if it fits into your lifestyle, then plug it. Claire says she does this on a separate page of her blog. Do not, they admonish, be afraid to pitch to potential sponsors.

4. The eye eats first

Among the panelists, only Caitlin doesn’t care so much about what a blog looks like: she’s interested purely in literary content.  The others suggested hiring an underemployed graphic design student who will add bling to your blog for a fraction of what a established pro would charge. Also: photos are important. Every post should have at least one. Although, if they’re culled from the web’s endless bounty, images most likely won’t make it into a book due to licensing issues.

5. Out with the old, in with the new

Rachel Vogel, an agent with Mary Evans, Inc, and Caitlin Leffel, an author and editor at Rizzoli New York, stressed that, in translating blog into book, new, original content is key. It can’t be just a “best of,” because so many potential buyers will have already read the blog. Come up with a topic or theme related to the blog. If it’s a memoir, develop a narrative arc. Then write a book proposal to pitch your book idea to agents. Which leads us to Platitude #6:

6. It’s a dog eat dog world

A key component of the proposal is the section on comparable and competing books. Publishers will want to know what similar stuff is selling well, and what you’ve got that they don’t. Do your research. Fortunately, all the dogs can be found on Amazon.

7. You have to live and breathe it

Posting twice a day is too much, but once a week is not enough. Tweet at least once a day, preferably more. One panelist said of Twitter, “You have to live and breathe it.” Which I hope is not entirely true, because it’s all I can do to maintain orbit in the blogosphere, and I left my Smart Phone in my other space suit.

Is six out of seven okay?

*It also takes, generally, strong writing and a unique and enjoyable voice. I just assumed that you already have that.

A list of the panelists’ fave blogs:

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