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Thursday
Feb182010

Must Give Good Blog

 



Most aspiring authors have heard that they should have an online presence.  I learned this last year when I went to the DFW Writer's Conference and everyone was abuzz about blogging, facebook, and twitter.  At the time I was on facebook and had a family blog, but nothing that said I was a writer.  The group of writers I was hanging out with at the conference also didn't have anything, so mild freak outs ensued.  Why were we so behind?  How did we not know this?  When are we supposed to write if we're supposed to do all of these other things too?  


I let the panic pass, then came home and started working on creating this here blog.  Great.  So I write about whatever I want and all is good in the world.  Well, not so much.  As I learned more and more, I realized you have to be vigilant about what you put out there on your blog.  Talking about rejections?  A bit risky if an agent stops by and sees no one else wanted your stuff.  Whining about the publishing industry?  Dangerous because you'll insult the very people you're trying to get "hired" by.  Badmouthing a book in a review?  Potentially burning bridges all over the place.


So is all that vigilance worth it?


After reading this article by Ellora's Cave editor Meghan Conrad over at Redlines and Deadlines, I would say the answer is a resounding yes.  I tweeted this article a few days ago, so for those of you that follow me, you may have already seen it (and for those of you not following me on twitter, why the heck not?  Go click that lovely birdy button in the upper right.)


Here is some of what Ms. Conrad says:

"I’ve rejected one or two good books because the author behaved so badly online, we decided we didn’t want to work with her. I’ve rejected a great many more books I was on the fence about after the author’s online presence ultimately convinced me the author probably wasn’t worth the effort."

I was surprised by that--not that they want to reject someone behaving badly.  I mean, peeps, learn to hide the crazy.  But by the fact that a weak online presence could be the deciding factor when they aren't sure about you.  Wow.  No pressure, right?  Although, I will note that Ellora's Cave is primarily an e-publisher so online presence probably holds more weight there than in a traditional house.


So what are they looking for?

"In general, we’re looking for signs that you’re relatively normal, literate, and reasonable, which is admittedly sort of difficult to quantify. A well-written blog is a great sign, or a Twitter account with hundreds of followers.  ...having followers is an indication you write well enough that people find your posts interesting and useful—points for you!"



Okay, I was alright with that one.  Followers are good, that makes sense.  But here's one point that scared me:

"Also worrying are blogs—or, worse, short stories or writing samples—with horrible grammar, punctuation, and spelling. No one expects you to be perfect, but I do tend to assume that the writing on your blog is a representative sample."



That one threw me for a bit of a loop because I'm a grammar nerd, but don't worry about it when blogging.  My blogs are written as streams of consciousness most times and in a conversational tone, which means lots of incomplete sentences and dashes and parentheses.  I do make sure that any excerpts I post are up to snuff in that area, but otherwise, I'm not really watching for it.  I could see if a lot of things are misspelled.  We do have spell check on here, but grammar?  Really?  Gah.  (See I just totally went all non-grammary again.)


So, be warned, fellow bloggers.  THEY, the they that we want to eventually work with, are watching you.  Make sure you want them to see what you're putting out there.  And if you do want to rant about the industry or do brutal book reviews, a pen name or some level of anonymity might be in order.  I highly recommend checking out the original article because she outlines additional things she doesn't like to see.


So how about you?  Do you have certain lines you don't cross in your blog?  Do you worry what agents/publishers/other authors will think if they stop by your blog?  Or, do you blog without worry because it's supposed to be a personal forum?

 

 
 

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Reader Comments (45)

I'm usually pretty careful with my blog. I also try not to post a lot of pictures of my dogs and my family and keep it fairly professional, but occasionally one does slip it's way in!

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAubrie

Perhaps because I worked in news for years, I'm a pretty cautious blogger. The challenge is to remember this is public and not just your buddies reading. But a blog should show personality and the fun side, because "social" networking is the point. One question we could ask ourselves: Would I stand up in a room full of people and say this? Because that's what we are doing.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTricia J. O'Brien

Honestly, I think she is somewhat unreasonable. While I do agree that your blog is representative of who you are, I don't think that should be any sort of criteria to whether publish a book or not. Unless the book is about you.
I wonder what she would have said about Herman Hesse, for example? LOL

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRA

i just try to keep mine professional, yet personal and fun. I want my personality to show through, but i hide my swearing and any negative attiudes or opinions i might express.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFalen

I treat every venue with a fair amount of professionalism, even if it's for fun.

Media that is accessible to the public automatically puts you on display. And cyberspace is forever.

I've seen too many authors rant or carry on like they were talking to their bff instead of an entire global community who judges you solely by what you put out there.

And no one is anonymous anymore. You can be identified with just some minor sleuthing.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaria Zannini

Excellent points. I've pulled back from book reviews because it's the bad books I learn from most, but I don't want to come across as a snot or know-it-all, so it's better to keep those observations and lessons to myself.

My day job is as an editor of a scholarly journal, so I do cringe a little when I see consistent spelling, grammar and punctuation errors in blogs of those who dream of becoming published. Because that's the easy stuff of writing; developing great characters and plots is far harder. Taking care with these issues shows commitment to becoming a serious professional. (No meanness intended: I'm a lousy typist and find errors in my posts plenty of times. I love that blogger doesn't limit how often I can revise and repost!)

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlaurel

Awesome blog post. It's weird having an online presence where you have to censor what you say... even if it's not necessarily bad. You're censoring for a WHOLE different reason. Anyway... awesome post. Plus, it helps me justify how long I spend online. ;) Thanks for that too.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWendy Sparrow

The reasons people blog are varied, but if you are an aspiring author then everything you write should probably be professional, without being stuffy. Blogging also changes the longer you are on and the more followers you get. When I first started blogging, I just wrote for me, basically, but now I write for my readers, knowing that industry people may be lurking.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElle Strauss

Thank you for this post, Roni!

I have had 2 personal blogs before this one, and even a big chunk of my earlier blog entries were more personal than writing-related. However, aside from the odd rant here and there, I do try to keep it fairly positive but personal.

However, I loved what Tricia O'Brien said: "Would I stand up in front of a room full of people and say this?" I think that is brilliant advice and I will think of these words every time I am about to press the "Publish Post" button.

Thank you!!

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErin Kuhns

I cannot emphasize enough that when you market yourself as a writer, then everything you write, everywhere, is a representation of your skill.

Years ago when I was hiring a junior technical writer, I couldn't believe how many people didn't understand that your resume and cover letter are writing samples.

Likewise, your blog and your web site are writing samples. Because they can be more personal in nature, there's nothing wrong with using slang or informal language. Typos are even acceptable (unless there are a lot) because they're a product of typing too fast. But grammatical problems are an indication that you may not have a handle on the English language.

I go back a lot and correct mistakes in my posts that I might not have seen when writing them. Lines I don't cross are bad mouthing other writers, although I crossed it regarding one well known reviewer, and yes I worry a lot that if an agent Googles me they will find my blog and them projectile vomit all over their screen because my writing is so pedestrian.

That is the risk you take, I think.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSierra Godfrey

I just had to say one more thing: I think this post and the article are full of stellar advice, but they are also guidelines more than anything. One of the things that I love about the blogs I follow is that they all have a personal, unique edge to them. If they were all writing advice and articles 100% of the time, I wouldn't visit them nearly as often. I love the diversity of the blogs out there.

Just my two cents! :)

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErin Kuhns

I'm pretty careful about what I post on my blog. It's my spot to post some of the historical info on ancient Egypt that didn't make it into my novels and make contact with other writers.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie Thornton

Good post. Yeah, I like to keep mine to writing topics only although once in a blue moon may post something querying related, or my query itself. I don't even do reviews for that reason. *Off to follow you on Twitter*

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenniferWalkup

When I started my blog, it was a place to "practice" my writing and build an online presence. I try to keep things professional- I never talk about family or friends, but I do share crazy personal anecdotes from time to time. If I review a book, I make sure not to be negative about it.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMariah Irvin

Very good advice you've given here. Content-wise, I'm extremely careful what I post about. I share a little bit about myself here and there, but I make sure that it's nothing too personal or TMI. I also don't plan on sharing an opinion on publishers, agents, rejection letters, etc. It's fine if others do, but I'm just trying to stay neutral.

The only thing I'm uneasy about is grammar. I check my spelling and try not to use improper punctuation, but like you said, I blog in a stream of consciousness style. I'm hoping that as long as my spelling/grammar is not super horrendous, I'll be okay.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShelley Sly

No pressure. Nope. Not at all.

Ahhhhhhh!!!

Hm, but definitely insightful. So glad I read it. Now, I feel the incredible urge to go back and rewrite all of my published posts.

(Great post, by the way!)

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarolina Valdez Miller

"Now, I feel the incredible urge to go back and rewrite all of my published posts."

I feel the same way. :O

Heh.

So judging by the original article:

*It is a good idea to not trash-talk anybody or anything. This shows somebody who may be difficult or intolerable to work with.

- I don't have a problem with that one, because when people use their blogs to rant about things that I happen to take seriously, it is a huge turnoff. It doesn't matter if they are an aspriring author, published author, or even an agent or editor.

*The grammar and spelling part - judging by her sample, I definitely agree with this. Her emphasis seemed to be on editing -> "I cant wait for you're book 2 cum out!"

- Roni, I think you are most of your blogging followers are safe. :)

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine Kariaxi

I've been careful not to say any agent names except to reference a contest or one of their own blog posts.

I have mentioned that I got X number of rejections but I avoiding complaining about them. I almost put my first rejection letter as a blog post because i just wanted to say "I got one and still want to write."

I am bad about grammar/proofing - need to work on that.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

This makes me a little nervous. I haven't badmouthed anybody or any books on my blog, but what about some of the content? I really hope that I don't come across as somebody an agent or editor wouldn't want to work with. When I first started my blog late last year, I kind of looked at it as a diary or sorts to chronicle my journey toward publication, and I try to pass on what I learn in the process. So, I don't know. Only time will tell.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

This is one awesomely fantastic, uber-terrific post! I bookmarked Redlines and Deadlines, a site I've never been to. Another winner, Roni! :-)

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShannon O'Donnell

Hi Ronnie,

Love your blog.

Yes, I try to be cautious, always keeping a G rating because I am a picture book author. But I try to keep it real as well....

Shelley

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterstoryqueen

Hi Ronnie -

Thanks for the great post! You always give me such good ideas for blogging AND writing.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJEM

I had no idea a web presence could be so important! *bites fingernails*

But don't worry-your blog is a pleasure to read. If I were an agent, I'd want to read your book because you're easy and fun to read. And helpful too!

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOddyoddyo13

I've read the original post by Meghan Conrad and I was astounded that publishers googled the authors. Not that I have aspirations in that area, but it amazed me at the work they put in.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSilver @ The Raving Readers

LOL at "learn to hide the crazy." I am a nerd about grammar. Because I work as an editor, I realize potential clients might look at my blog (and of course agents, but I'm not a big fish yet). I'm not perfect all the time but I sure try.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTara McClendon

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