Thursday, 20 December 2012

How I'm going to blog better in 2013!

Phew - practically Christmas already. It's been a great year for blogging and my book has been selling well, which is really exciting.

But as you can probably tell from the date of my last post, I haven't been practising all that I preach! Yes folks, I confess it's been a while since my last blog post here. Why is that? And what are the lessons to be learnt?

Stick to your editorial calendar
When I started this blog, my editorial calendar was stuck to the wall in front of my desk and I kept to it pretty well, but then one month I was busy on other things and forgot to update it... and before long I was 'ad-hoc' posting (rather like this) which is ALWAYS more work than devising and sticking to a schedule.

Keep your ambitions sustainable
Three posts a week was fine at first, when the book was launched and was being reviewed I was doing talks and writing posts was relatively easy, blogging was top of my mind. But that frequency wasn't sustainable over the long term.

Follow your passion
Although blogging about blogging is still on my agenda, my interest in poetry has really blossomed this year and as a consequence much of my blogging has been over at Poetgal. If you find yourself blogging more about Topic A than Topic B, the signs are trying to tell you something. It's REALLY hard to blog about a subject if there's something ELSE you're burning to blog about!

So what am I going to do about it? Well, this blog isn't my only neglected blog at the moment - has also seen less action lately! So rather than beat myself up about not blogging equally often across all sites, here's my plan for 2013:

  1. Create a sustainable editorial calendar for my bloggingforcreatives blog, based on, say, two posts a month, for the next 6 months. These can be based on chapters from the book, tips and ideas from expert bloggers and other 'timeless' but useful information.
  2. Create an outline editorial calendar for my blog, again based on two posts a month - but if I'm not inspired to write I won't give myself a ticking off. It's my main business blog and most items there are 'thought pieces' brought on by topical issues or events, and I do think that if I don't have anything specific to say which adds value to the debate, it's best not to post.
  3. Continue to blog at Poetgal, when inspired to do so, and not feel guilty about it!
Wish me luck! What are your blogging goals for 2013? What went wrong in 2012 and what worked for you? Let me know!

(Image credit: Origami Penguin as featured on How About Orange)

Friday, 2 November 2012

Some useful blogging resources I've come across lately

I know, I know - I'm not blogging as often as I used to here - my apologies! Various real-life things have got in the way of my editorial calendar - in fact I think I need to go back and read my own book to remind myself!

On the subject of the book, I've had a few enquiries lately from folks being told they had to wait a couple of months for it - obviously I'm really pleased the first print run has sold out, but it's no fun to have to wait. Anyway, the publishers tell me that new stock is on its way and may even already have arrived. (If you're trying to order it online, the Book Depository still has copies I think.) So thanks for your patience, and a huge thank you to those who have reviewed and rated the book and generally helped support sales. You are stars!

Anyway - I thought I'd share a few links to some useful resources I've come across lately that I think you'll find interesting.

If you have a Facebook page, here are '7 little known tricks to make your Facebook page stand out' - little things like repositioning photos, highlighting fan posts and sometimes scheduling in advance. Useful stuff.

Ten Top Pinterest Boards - Jeff Bullas shows us how top Pinterest-ers do it - it's a visual treat, whether or not you are concerned with 'driving sales, leads and traffic' to your blog.

Are you confused about Google+? Then take the free, online Google+ Masterclass from the Britmums blogging community and get up to speed in no time. This is just one example of the great resources available at Britmums.

And finally for now, a most relevant piece on Why you need to keep on blogging by Sam McArthur at Savvy Marketers. It's true! If you need reminding of why it's worth working through those times when you're feeling uninspired or overwhelmed with other things,  then this is for you (and me!)

Image credit: Modern Life blogs

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Some of my favourite writers & poetry blogs

Just for a change I thought I would give a shout out to some of my favourite writers' and poets' blogs.

Should a poet have a blog? Hmmm ... well there is a school of thought that says NO - better to preserve a sense of mystery - less is more!

But I admit I enjoy writing my own poetry-themed blog which is kind of a diary/work in progress / confessional type of thing. Maybe if I ever make it big as a poet I might regret having exposed so much of myself, warts and all, but for now it's a lot of fun to connect with others in a similar situation and share my success, failures and everything in between.

Anyway, here are three of my favourite writer-bloggers...

Josephine Corcoran, aka @CorkyCorks on Twitter: Josephine is an experienced writer and teacher of creative writing, and her blog is a wonderful source of ideas and inspiration including reviews, comments and questions about the writing process. She also has a companion blog for poems, And Other Poems, which is growing into a rich anthology.

Abegail Morley, The Poetry Shed: Abegail posts reviews, featured poems & poets, news of competitions and events, listings of poetry books and magazines, and some useful tips from magazine editors about what they look for.

Sarah Salway as well as being the current 'Canterbury Laureate' is a prolific blogger, the subtitle of her blog being 'Handmade stories and seeds of inspiration' - yes there is a teeny bit of gardening stuff in there but LOTS of interesting, quirky posts about writing and writers. I like the way she mixes up the media - plenty of photos & video, and generous (copious) references to other writers.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

You don't have to go it alone - join a blogging community like BritMums!

When you're new to blogging it can be a lonely thing - which is why blogging communities can be a life saver.

I recently met up with Jen Howze, one of the co-founders of BritMums, Britain's biggest parent blogging network, and was inspired by her energy and evangelism for online networking.

BritMums provides community, support, ideas and motivation - every day there's something new. Today there was a video of a Google Hangout chat in which a number of members shared their tips on using social media effectively. As well as special interest groups, profile pages and the chance to have your blog featured, there's also an annual conference, BritMums Live, which gives members an opportunity to meet up, learn, share and build their blogger network.

Ironically, both Jen and BritMums co-founder Susanna Scott are both American, but just as ironically (I guess) although they have invited me to speak at the 2013 BritMums Live, I'm not a mum. (You don't have to be a 'mommy blogger' to join, just an active - non-commercial - blogger.)

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Moving Poetgal from Posterous to

Earlier in the year, Twitter acquired Posterous, and although at first I noticed no difference, I'm now getting the distinct impression it's being wound down.

I have a Posterous blog (Poetgal) and when I posted to it today the new post did not update on the home page. When I googled the issue, I found I wasn't the only one complaining about Posterous - there are a lot of angry people posting to its Facebook page!

This is a great shame - Posterous used to be a lovely platform, but I decided now was the time to shift my blog elsewhere. A quick search brought up this useful post from Lifehacker: basically, Posterous does not provide an export function, so if you want to move your blog elsewhere you either have to do it the long way, or export to a blog, because WP is the only provider with a simple import-from-Posterous facility.

So, I did just that - moved all the posts, images, comments and tag - it was really quick and easy - chose a Theme and did a modicum of customisation.

Unfortunately the pages weren't imported, so I'm going to have to recreate my blogroll. Other housekeeping issues will be to change the Feedburner feed (or maybe it's time to migrate to Feedblitz),   set up categories and other stuff. I've changed the redirect of my URL so it now points to the Wordpress site.

The old Poetgal blog on Posterous

Nice new Wordpress site!

On the whole I'm pretty happy with the new look and home, it's got a nice magazine theme now and it's a hosted blog so no money to shell out.

Do you have a Posterous blog? Are you having problems, and are you going to move it?

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Featured blogger: Zoe Jessica

I came upon Zoe quite by chance on, a new Twitter-style microblogging community that’s only been around a month or so but quickly gathering speed. (Basically it’s a bit like Twitter was about 4 years ago, but that’s another post I think…)

Half an hour later I had enjoyed a good snoop around her blog, felt thoroughly envious of her glam lifestyle which basically involves the Bahamas, Berlin and an Italian husband…ah, it must be tough!)

But anyway –the point is that Zoe is both an excellent cook and an equally-excellent writer. I read her Sicilian Cannoli recipe from start to finish, it was such a fun read. The blog is full of great photos too – did I mention Zoe is also an accomplished photographer? 
I know there are tons of food blogs out there but I was struck with the nice clean design of Rum & Reason, the interesting-sounding categories (‘Cool food, hot summer’, ‘Chocolate’, ‘Miami’…) and the range of great baking recipes. Baking often seems to be under-represented on general food blogs, but not so here.

As well as writing about food, Zoe also blogs about her travels, reviews restaurants, hotels and exhibitions, all with a witty and not uncritical eye.
48 hours in Las Vegas on Rum & Reason

The blend of sophistication and down-to-earth fun is really stylish, and just shows how a distinctive tone of voice and great photos can really contribute to achieving ‘standout’ in the blogosphere.

PS do come and join me on, it's new and growing!

Monday, 3 September 2012

Your blog recommendations ... and our 2 winners!

Phew! I've been looking at all your blog recommendations in the big book giveaway and enjoying the variety of what's popped up ...

I liked Queenie and the Dew - as recommended by Anke, of Anchor and Sing which is equally quirky and fun. And yes, I like the letter-writing thing too!

Thank you Lisa for - I have to agree I found some of the stories there quite funny in a black humour sort of way…!

Although I'm following designer Graham Smith on Twitter I must admit I hadn't seen his blog I'm Just Creative until now -  - thank you Jinny for the tip-off, you're right, it's a really useful design resources with tons of examples of corporate logos etc. Nice one. And Jinny's own blog at looks very good for anyone looking for graphic design tips and inspiration.

Thank you to Laura Swaddle for sharing Attic24 - choc full of colourful craft projects and more, and Laura's own blog Scarlet Pyjamas is well worth a visit - I really like the look and layout, and the current series of posts about Laura's 'dream holiday destination' Japan is a visual treat.

Qwiksave - thank you for sharing the names of some of your favourite bloggers, and Rosie's Arty Stuff (great blog name!)

In fact thanks to everyone who took the time to post, it's amazing at what's out there and impossible to find all the gems, so recommendations are great.

Congratulations to Anke and Laura, you are the two winners - let me have your contact details and a copy of 'Blogging for Creatives' will be winging its way towards you both!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Featured Blogger: Donna Peay

Now here's a truly beautiful blog: Donna Peay's A Perfect Gray.

Who would have thought so much variety could be achieved out of one colour... and a colour that's often associated with drabness! I have to confess, I'm a total Farrow & Ball fan and have spent some time poring over their colour charts and marvelling at the difference between 'Old White', 'White Tie', 'Lamp Room Gray' and the rest. But if you're not convinced, take a look at Donna's blog and you'll be hooked.

Donna started her blog in 2007 and has built up a loyal readership and regular commenters. I'm sure it helps that she posts two or three times a week. Donna is great at finding inspirational imagery from around the web, and you'll see her guest blogging in various places on the subjects of colour and interiors. Oh, and she also has some awesome Pinterest boards...

'Pieces of Gray' - one of Donna's Pinterest boards

Donna's Pinterest page


What do you think? Do you have a blog you'd like to recommend? If so, why not let us know about it in the comments either here on on this post, and you could win a copy of 'Blogging for Creatives'!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Time for a book giveaway!

Okey, UK peeps... so maybe you haven't yet bought a copy of Blogging for Creatives but you're thinking about it, right? Well, I've got 2 copies to giveaway and there's no time like the present!
(If you're still not convinced take a look at this 5* review it received on Amazon...)

All you have to do to be in with a chance is recommend a great blog and tell us why you love it - it could be one you subscribe to, or it could be your own. It could be on any topic (but nothing illegal or 'adult' please).

Write your recommendation in the comments box below and two lucky commenters will each receive a free copy of Blogging for Creatives!

Here are the basic rules:
  1. Only open to mainland UK addresses (sorreee!)
  2. You must be over 18
  3. Blogs already featured on this blog are not eligible
  4. You may enter up to three times, but not more than once a day
  5. Closing date is August 31st 2012

See the full terms and conditions here.

Looking forward to hearing about your favourite blog!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Roundup post: Blogging tools & tips, plus a Pinterest primer

I've been on holiday these last two weeks, staying well away from the London Olympics! Although I confess I watched some of it on TV...

Now I'm trying to do the traditional post-hols catchup, and thought I'd share with you some useful stuff for bloggers that I found in my inbox and Twitter stream, in case you missed it.

Blogging Tools
First off, how could I resist 22 Top Blogging Tools Loved by the Pros - great example of a title that's bound to get click throughs! This is an article by Cindy King at Social Media Examiner, a resource worth checking out. Subscribe to their emails or follow on Twitter (@smexaminer).

As it sounds, there's a lot to take in here - the thing with this kind of post is that you're probably not going to rush out and try everything on the list, but it brings to your attention some gems you might otherwise not know about. I particularly liked the look of Google's Content Idea Generator, and IFTTT (a social media tool - worth a play with). I'm already a fan of Storify, a tool to create and curate opinions and ideas around a topic (for example live blogging and tweets at an event.) Disqus (a community based around blog comments) is also great, I talk about the usefulness of this in my book... plus lots more good ideas in this article.

A From Me to You cinemagraph created by Jamie Beck
Photo tips
In the same vein is 15 Photo Blogging Tips from the Pros from Mashable - those pros just know it all, don't they?! This is actually a sponsored post, but as a compilation of comments from several high profile photo bloggers including Jamie Beck and Tom Robinson, it's an interesting read. Questions answered include 'What makes for a good picture' and 'Tricks of the trade'.

Pinterest primer
And thirdly, this is a post from earlier in the year but recently brought to my attention - Pinterest Basics for Bloggers, by Yang of Chillisauce on ProBlogger. If you haven't yet got stuck into Pinterest and want to know how to make the most of it, this is a really comprehensive and easy to follow article with lots of tips and screenshots.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Featured Blogger: Grace Bonney

Design*Sponge probably needs no introduction - it has featured in just about every mainstream publication and has been called a "Martha Stewart Living for the Millennials" by the New York Times. Founder Grace Bonney is a writer and former style editor for a number of lifestyle and design magazines, so as you can imagine the blog has the professional feel of a media site - but it maintains a strong sense of community as can be seen in the lively commenting.

'Before and After' is a popular column on Design*Sponge
The site is updated several times a day by a team of writers, and there are regular columns such as 'Before and After', 'Made with Love' and 'Living In'. Always with gorgeous-looking photography, as you would expect.

For lots of ideas of how the 'pro bloggers' do it, Design*Sponge is well worth subscribing to - no matter what the subject matter of your own blog. I do think that seeing what others are doing, and trying to emulate (or better!) what works, is a great way to  develop one's own skills and style, rather than looking mainly at 'how to blog' blogs. Sometimes the best practitioners are the ones out there doing it, rather than talking about the process!

When I approached Grace about contributing a tip to my book, her reply was exceptionally prompt and generous for someone who is obviously extremely busy and moving in big media circles. She is a real asset to the blogosphere in so many ways and I was delighted to have her participate in 'Blogging for Creatives.'

Friday, 3 August 2012

Featured Blogger: Jeanne Horak-Druiff

The web is overflowing with food blogs - it's such a popular subject that we can't seem to get enough of pictures of delicious food, recipes and foodie talk. Some food blogs just seem to stand out and one of those is Cooksister by Jeanne Horak-Druiff, who is another of the lovely expert bloggers who contributed to 'Blogging for Creatives.'

Jeanne is a South African living the the UK, but admits that her heart is 'back home'! (The name 'Cooksister' comes from a South African doughnut-type cookie.) But Jeanne's blog includes recipes inspired by a huge range of cuisines and styles, and rather than simply presenting a recipe, Jeanne always has a fascinating story to go with it. She travels frequently and always blogs about her culinary experiences abroad!
Cooksister regularly features restaurant reviews
When she's not blogging, Jeanne can be found speaking at blogging conventions such as the Cape Town Food and Wine Blogging Indaba and at food photography and writing events such as those offered by From Plate to Page.

Jeanne manages to combine insightful writing with a professional standard of photography on her blog - something that can really make a food blog stand out.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Creating a content plan will help keep your blog on track

It's a sad fact that the majority of blogs are abandoned within three months. Yikes!

The good news is that there is one small step you can take which will help keep you going even when you have a bad case of 'bloggers block' or just can't decide what to post.  The answer is to create a content plan.

Your content plan can take whatever form you like, but it must have a physical presence - it's no good having it in your head! You may be most comfortable sketching it out long hand, using a calendar template or an Excel spreadsheet, even making a collage ... whatever works for you. But it has to go on your wall somewhere you will see it.

Design Milk's editorial calendar

First up - think like a magazine editor. Perhaps your blog will have some regular features. You will see an editorial calendar on many successful blogs. For example, Design Milk has monthly features such as 'Deconstruction' and 'Where I Work.' Each post under that topic follows the same format or type of content. On her blog Bright, Bold and Beautiful, Laura Tevey has a regular 'Best of the Week' roundup. What kind of regular features might you have on your blog? They could be weekly or monthly.

Next, think about the types of blog post you plan to produce. Think about the medium (predominantly text, photos, video, or a balance of these), length, subject matter and type of post. In 'Blogging for Creatives' I suggest 12 blog post types that work, from Opinion Piece and Interview to Story, Controversy and List posts.

Then decide how frequently you are going to post. Be realistic, but also bear in mind that if you post less often than once a week you may find it takes a long time to generate an active, interested audience.

Put this information on a matrix, with (say) dates in the left hand column and days of the week across the top. Put in the names of your regular features, like 'Blog Buddy Showcase' or 'Behind the Scene Tuesday'. On other days you plan to post, put in the names of some blog post types like 'Opinion Piece' or 'List post'.

How does that look? Now, try to add some specifics to some of the plan entries. Blog Buddy Showcase - who do you have a mind for the first one? Behind the Scenes - what project have you been working on where you might share aspects of the process? Hopefully, more subjects and ideas will suggest themselves as you go along. Make a note of them all, however sketchy, even if it's in a separate column, 'ideas' or whatever.

Now you have the bones of your blog for the next two or three months. Each time you go through the process, it should get easier. Be careful not to overwrite anything, as it useful at-a-glance to see what you've already blogged about on a specific topic. Great content can also be recycled, reworked or repositioned.

With a content plan you should also find it easier to write blog posts in advance. Once the creative juices start flowing you will find it's quick and effective to do two or three posts at once, scheduling or saving them for later.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Featured Blogger: Dan Blank

I think I first came across Dan Blank on Twitter. I've certainly enjoyed his weekly email newsletters over the years, with their nice blend of latest blog post, news round up and a couple of fun photos. One of the regular features is 'Owen of the week' - a photo of what Dan's young son has been up to - a charming note, but also a bold relationship-building technique that many would steer clear of in the name of privacy.  It's noticeably different to most email newsletters in that it feels like a concentrated dose of Dan: great business insight and information sharing, with a big dollop of openness and humanity thrown in. And well written, which comes as no surprise when you find out that Dan's background is in publishing, and his business We Grow Media helps writers and publishers to build and manage their online presence.

Dan Blank's blog at We Grow Media
The blog is a section on Dan's main website where he posts regularly on topical media issues of relevance to writers, explores new ideas and ways of doing things and offers insights into his own experiments. For example, he posted recently about his return to podcasting, explaining his reasons and how he went about it in detail right down to the equipment selection.

Dan Blank's YouTube Channel

Dan has also recently started video blogging (sometimes called 'vlogging') and has used video and audio in various ways on his blog.

There is a simple honesty and understatedness about Dan's approach that I love. In being both generous and genuine, an absolute expert in his field but also curious to learn and develop, he is someone who most definitely walks the social talk. Do take a look at his blog - and sign up for that email newsletter, it's a gem.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Why you need to nurture your social presence

Last month I talked a bit about complementing your blog with a Facebook page, and some of the basics of setting one up.

I'm reluctant to talk about 'promoting your blog via social media' because I think that is a somewhat limiting mindset. Social media isn't 'just another marketing channel' as we hear so often. 

It's better to think of your social presence as being a part of your 'brand', whether that brand is your blog, your business or you yourself. Social tools enable us to expand our networks of contacts, listen to and learn from others, communicate one-to-one with people and allow people to get to know what your brand stands for. And yes, build our profile and audience.

What people (and organisations) don't always understand is that this happens if, and only if, you have something to offer that people find interesting, useful or entertaining, so much so that they share it with others in their networks. By approaching social as a promotional tool, it's tempting to post nothing but promotional, one-way messages and hope that they will magically get passed around the internet. Short term promotions and offers have their place, but they are just that - short term and unlikely to build you a rich, sustainable social presence.

Vita Sackville-West knew a thing or two about gardening. This is part of
her garden at Sissingshurst Castle in Kent. Photo by kevt747.
The benefits of building an online social presence are mainly long term and slow to accumulate. It's like planting and nurturing a garden. Anyone can go buy a bunch of bedding plants in flower, plant them in any patch of ground and have a lovely display for as long as the flowers last. But a gardener would take into consideration the soil type, orientation of the land, drainage, climate, shape and size of plants, flowering period, positioning and a hundred other things. A gardener would know (or learn) about watering, weeding, pruning, pest control and so on.

Your aim is to build a sustainable social presence and become a trusted member of your social networks. Once you're in this position you will worry a lot less about short-term attention grabbing and attach less importance to stats such as likes, followers and visits. Trust me!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Finding & subscribing to other blogs

Do you regularly visit other blogs? Reading (and preferably commenting, but only when you have a genuine comment) is an important aspect of connecting your own blog with the blogosphere.

The kinds of blogs you should seek out are:

  1. industry peers/competitors (if you are blogging for fun then you probably won't see others as competitors, but even if you blog for business you may still view competitors as potential collaborators or blogging buddies. And if not, you still want to keep tabs on them, don't you?)
  2. related blogs (where the content complements yours - not just the obvious, think laterally here)
  3. mentor blogs (for example, more experienced bloggers who are generous about sharing their learnings, acknowledged experts or just bloggers you admire)
  4. anything that catches your eye or that looks interesting!

Finding blogs
Do searches on Google as well as Google blogsearch and also try some of the specialist blog communities such as FoodBlogs, Technorati, or BlogCatalog.
Once you find two or three great blogs, check out their blog rolls for ideas of blogs they follow.

Keeping up with blogs
The great thing about blogs is that (unlike a normal website) you can subscribe to them, meaning whenever they are updated you receive an alert. This is much more convenient than bookmarking, which relies on you remembering to return to a website. With website, you go to them, but with blogs, they come to you.

First of all you need an account with a feed reader or aggregator. A simple option is to add feeds to your email client, such as Outlook or Macmail. This way, any new blog posts from those blogs you subscribe to will appear alongside your email. If your email client doesn't offer this, then you'll need to use a dedicated feed reader such as Google Reader or Bloglines.

This is what my Google Reader looks like
I have a Google Reader account, although I confess I use Feedly, which is a kind of user-friendly magazine-style feed reader which is actually powered by Google Reader. Feedly provides a handy bookmarklet which you just click on when you find a blog you want to subscribe too. It also presents everything in such a way that it's easy to skim through for new posts and read the summaries.

Feedly's user-friendly format and subscription 'bookmarklet'
make it a popular tool
Once you have a neat way of subscribing to and keeping up with blogs, it's just a question of checking your feed reader once a day for anything new and exciting.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Featured blogger: Jaime Derringer

Design Milk is one of the stars of the blogosphere. Owner Jaime Derringer is an expert on design trends and contributes to a multitude of design blogs as well as running both Design Milk and its sister blog, Dog Milk

There are so many things I like about this blog, even aside from the cool content. The logo is understated but unpretentious (check out the subtle difference between the main logo and that of Dog Milk...) the social buttons are clear and the design overall - as you might expect - is clean and uncluttered, even though there are plenty of eyecatching things going on in the sidebar in particular. Lots of other things worth emulating - I'll be using Design Milk as an example in future 'tips' posts.

From the Design Milk blog sidebar - visual links to popular posts

When I approached Jaime about contributing to my book she was incredibly forthcoming and supportive. Among the many tips she offered, I loved this one:

"Running a successful blog is hard work. Don't let anyone tell you that it's easy or that you can make tons of money by doing practically nothing. In the early days, I spent my nights and weekends working on the blog while also working full-time. It took three years of doing that before I was able to quit my day job and feel secure. I still work more now than I did at my day job but the reward is that I'm doing something that I love."

The hard work has paid off - Design Milk has grown into a fully fledged online magazine with a team of writers and editors on the look out for the very best in design, interiors, art and style.

By the way, Dog Milk is great fun - although as a cat lover my eye was drawn to a rather nifty milk-carton shaped 'house' by Moissue - for cats or small dogs! 

Sister site to Design Milk - Dog Milk!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Talk at London Writers' Cafe

I had a lovely time at the London Writers' Cafe meetup on Monday evening. The invitation to speak to the group came from Lisa Goll, who found me through Twitter. Lisa wanted someone to come and talk to writers about blogging - why it's worth doing, how to get started, how to maintain and promote it.

It was a mixed group of authors (published and unpublished), commercial and creative writers, and there were plenty of interesting questions, many about issues surrounding privacy (whether to separate your blogging voice from your private life) and how to connect with the blogosphere. The answers aren't always black and white - more often 'it depends' or 'it's whatever you feel happiest with' are my best advice. We looked at a few examples of successful writer-bloggers including Scott Pack's Me and My Big Mouth and Sara Crowley's A Salted.

Some super comments from people afterwards both at the event and on Twitter, which I was really pleased about. The London Writers' Cafe is a really vibrant group with regular meetups and lots going on - if you're a writer in the London area it's definitely one to check out.

With Lisa Goll of London Writers' Cafe

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Featured Blogger: Emily Benet

When Emily Benet started working in her mother's chandelier shop, little did she know it would be the kickstart to her writing career. But after having blogged about her experiences, she was approached by Salt Publishing to turn it into a book - and Shop Girl Diaries was published in 2009. 

Emily's blog won the Completely Novel Author Blog Award (published category) at the London Book Fair in 2010 and has received praise from all quarters.

The Shop Girl Diaries blog continues and has developed into a community of writers and readers. Emily candidly documents her experiences and successes as a writer, posts interesting interviews with other authors and even runs the occasional reader competition. 

Emily also gives regular workshops on blogging for authors wanting to flex their blogging muscles - the next one is on London August 18th.

I was very pleased when Emily agreed to contribute a tip to Blogging for Creatives. She has a practical, down to earth approach to blogging and her blog is a perfect showcase for her engaging writing style and sense of fun. And proof that when you start blogging, you never know where it may lead!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Getting out and about to promote your blog

Some crazy chicks at the Hello Blogger event in Brisbane, Australia
(Photo by TRX Photography)
OK so blogging is an online activity but that doesn't mean you can't promote it offline, in fact you really should! Here are a few ways of getting out and about to promote your blog in the 'real' world.

1) Attend events and meetups
Whether it's a conference to do with your area of interest, a local tweet-up or networking meeting, grab your business cards, samples of your work or whatever's appropriate and get along there. You're bound to meet other likeminded souls and with a bit of luck even some other bloggers. Going along to events is also a great way of meeting blogger or social networking friends in real life. Let people know you're going by using the Twitter hashtag ahead of the event, so they know to look out for you. You may even meet potential new guest bloggers or collaborators.

2) Hold blogger get-togethers
Rather like a tweet-up, you could host a meet-up for bloggers in your area. Not only a lovely excuse for a social, but also a co-promotion opportunity:  take photos or video footage, blog about it after the event and tell other attendees who are bound to do the same. Instant exposure to one another's blog audiences!

3) Offer to give talks
If you're happy speaking to groups, why not offer yourself up as a speaker - organisers of coffee mornings, business networking groups and even industry events might well want you to come and talk about your area of expertise, or about your blogging journey - people always like to learn from others what has worked and what hasn't!

4) Make friends with the press
Start local, but no reason not to aim higher! Local press, radio and TV are always looking for good quality news and features, and it's worth finding out the names of your local friendly journalists, giving them a call and (if you can) find out what they would welcome from you. You could even invite them to your next bloggers meetup!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Tech Tip: Using custom typography on your blog

On the web (as opposed to print) it's not that easy to introduce custom typography or unusual fonts.

And yet, attention to typography is an essential part of design for print, and custom fonts can take on a fame of their own, such as the typeface designed in 1916 for the London Underground, known as P22 Johnston.
But introducing a custom or unusual font to the web is risky. Just specifying a particular font doesn't mean it will appear that way on every screen - if the device you're using to read the blog doesn't have that font installed, the browser will substitute a default font such as Arial or Times New Roman. Suddenly, your fancy heading looks a little... flat.

Should you be using custom fonts in the first place? Elaborate fonts can be difficult to read on screen. No-one wants to have to work that hard.

Then there's the question of aesthetics. Does that font really look good as a header for your blog? Or even if it does, by using the same font for menu headings and in the sidebar make the page a little busy or cluttered?

What about the impression you'd like to create - does the font suit the subject matter? Does it say the right things about your blog?

However, a strong custom font can really make your blog stand out and come to be instantly recognisable as your 'brand'.
By using Typekit, the New Yorker is able to
reproduce its iconic print typeface on screen.
If you do decide to use a custom font, one way of doing it is to use a web font. This is a font that is hosted remotely and loaded onto the webpage by the browser, in the same way as photos. What you have is still live text, but it should always display correctly. I say 'always' in the internet sense, which is 'usually but not guaranteed'! Custom fonts don't always display correctly in mobile devices, and even when they do, a slow or interrupted connection can mean all you see is a blank space where the font should be.

Google Web Fonts

Typekit was one of the first web font services, although it's not free. Google Web Fonts is free, and worth checking out. Here is a useful tutorial on how to use Google Web Fonts in Blogger, and if you are using Wordpress this article offers several options on how to use custom fonts.

If you don't feel especially strongly about the font used in the main body of your blog, then go for a classic, safe Sans Serif font like Arial or Verdana. You can make it look quite distinctive on the screen by other means, for example by changing the colour or line height or justifying the text.

If you only want a fancy font for your main header or sidebar headings, then one method is to create them as image files. Just be aware that it can make your blog more image-heavy and less fluid, and from a point of view of being found in web searches it's not quite as good as using 'live text'.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Featured Blogger: David Airey

Designer David Airey has top notch credentials and works with clients from all over the world. His blog is actually his website and the number of readers has grown from zero to 174,000 subscribers in under six years.

Clearly there's a lot we can all learn from David, and quick delve into his blog reveals plenty of gems, such as this post in which he gives his top ten tips for how to grow your blog readership.

The blog's look is very clean and deceptively simple looking. David has pulled out some key information and put it into the top menu bar - 'Advice for design students' and 'FAQs' - I get the feeling he's trying to filter out unwanted messages or questions, and when your blog gets really popular that's something you need to think about. To begin with, answering questions and getting new readers is fun. But when you're successful you will invariably keep getting asked the same things, it makes sense to direct people to the answers before they take up your hard-earned time.

It goes to show that you don't need gizmos, gimmicks, bright colours or a ton of 'share this' buttons to make a compelling blog with hundreds of thousands of readers.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Wednesday Tech Tip: Check out Google Analytics

If you haven't yet looked at Google Analytics I would recommend at least checking it out. The information you get from it will help you see what is your most popular blog content, where your blog readers come from, what search terms they used to find your blog, and more.

Hosted blogging platforms generally come with a statistics feature built in, but they're sometimes a bit basic. If you're interested in knowing more, it's usually a simple process to install Google Analytics.

In the book, I explain step-by-step how to sign up for Google Analytics and install it on to your Blogger, Typepad, WordPress or Tumblr blog.

But remember, it's easy to get bogged down with stats - decide how often you will check them (weekly should be plenty) and stick to it. Otherwise you'll be logging in every five minutes to see what your readers are up to, and it can get addictive! Don't let the stats distract from your main job of posting great stuff and building your blog community.

To give you an idea of the scope of Google Analytics, here's a great post from Gregory Clotti about Top 5 Google Analytics Reports for Bloggers.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Promoting your blog on Facebook

For many bloggers, just keeping a blog going takes up all of their time. But if you want to build your blog readership, you'll need to draw people's attention to it. There are loads of ways to do this, but for today I want to talk about Facebook.

With something like half the population (in the UK and US) on Facebook, it's obvious that people are hanging out there. And the first rule of marketing is 'go where your audience is.'
Jaime Derringer of Design Milk
has a vibrant Facebook Page
If you're already on Facebook, you're probably already mentioning your blog to your friends. But if you want to take it a step further, you could create a Page for your blog. A Facebook Page is not the same as a Profile (your personal page). A Page is for businesses and other types of entity other than individuals and interest groups. There are many advantages to having a Page for your blog: you can post, like and comment in the name of your Blog (rather than your own name), you can promote your Page with Facebook Ads (if you wish) and see detailed statistics about your page (once you get a minimum number of Likes).

A Facebook Page cannot befriend individuals, but it can Like other pages. This means that when people like your Page you can't start a dialogue with them. But the more interesting stuff you post on your Page, the more likely you are to get likes and comments, and your posts will start appearing in the news feeds of both your fans and their friends. Over time, your Facebook Page will become a community in its own right and a complement to your blog. Nurturing a Facebook Page does take time and energy, though. Don't jump into it unless you're confident you'll be able to keep it going.

For inspiration, take a look at these bloggers' Facebook Pages:  Lisa Lam's U-Handbag, Kristan Roland's Confessions of a Cookbook Queen, Anna Hrachovec's MochiMochi Land, Chris Zawada's Lovely Package.

I'm currently experimenting with a Facebook Page for this blog, which you may have already seen. At the moment I mostly re-post links to my blog posts, but I'm also trying to spend a little time each day posting other interesting stuff from inspirational bloggers, exploring useful resources to do with blogging and posting links to it, and reaching out to comment and like other Pages. There's been a small amount of interaction with people and I'm hoping for more as time goes on. I also 'kickstarted' the Page by placing a Facebook Ad for the first month. Facebook offers ad credit for new advertisers, and if you target your ads carefully you can get some good exposure. There's no need to spend very much at all, and it can get you beyond the awkward initial stage when you don't have many 'likes' or activity on the Page.

Are you using Facebook to promote your blog? Let me know in the comments if you have any great examples of Facebook Pages for blogs!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Featured Blogger: Fern Richardson

This week's featured blogger is someone with a name that really suits her job - Fern Richardson. Her blog Life on the Balcony is all about container gardening (something I need to know about, as our patio garden is the size of one small table and 2 chairs...)

The blog has a real magazine feel about it - partly due to it being built on the WordPress Thesis theme, well loved by many pro bloggers. Fern makes great use of videos - there's an introductory one on the home page and a whole page of vids which really bring her expert tips to life. Here's an example of one of them:

Another great feature promoted on the blog is Flower Chat - as Fern explains on the blog: "Fleur chat is a topic-based discussion that gets started every other Thursday at 6pm PST on Twitter (#FleurChat) and Facebook (Fleur Chat group). There is always a theme (such a wildlife-friendly flowers, aromatic flowers, edible flowers, etc) and usually an expert cohost." When the Chats are done, Ferns archives the transcripts on her blog, so if you missed the live event you can still see what was said later.

An extract from a Flower Chat session, archived on Life on the Balcony

Twitter or Facebook chats are a fantastic use of social media to connect with fans, readers and the wider online community. (You can run a Chat simultaneously across both platforms by syncing the two feeds.)

There are so many things I like about Life on the Balcony - do take a look and see for yourself, you are bound to take away some great ideas!