For the last few weeks we’ve been talking about the process of creating your own blog, from choosing and testing a blog topic to the design of your blog to creating a coherent marketing strategy for your blog. If you followed my suggestion and have written a blog post every day since you started planning your blog, you’ve got about a month worth of posts ready to go–and it’s time to start thinking about your blog launch.
When planning your blog launch, there are three important questions to ask yourself:
What should my first post be about?
You want your first post to give readers an idea who you are and what your blog’s about, but don’t leave it at just that: you want your first post to touch on readers’ emotions. Starting with a personal anecdote related to your topic, a recommendation for some of your favourite topic-related products, or some advice to help readers reach their own goals will make people want to come back and spread the word. The more value the post has for your readers, the more likely it is to be shared.
Remember that your first post shouldn’t be a novel. It should be a few hundred words long, with a picture if you can find a suitable one, and it should give some details about yourself and your topic without covering too much. You don’t want to bore new readers by talking about yourself for hours, and you don’t want to detail topics which you can write other blog posts about.
What DO you want to include in your first blog post? A simple check list can help you make sure it’s ready for the public:
- Your name.
- Your region–country or state, you don’t have to mention city, but people like to have an idea where you’re from.
- What you do for a living–this helps people connect to you and remember that you’re a real person.
- What your topic is and why you chose it.
- What you’re planning to write about over the next few weeks.
Containing all of this information will help readers connect to you and will hopefully excite them for what’s coming next on your blog. Once you’ve written an introduction post containing all these things–and maybe a couple useful tips or websites you like–it’s time to ask yourself the next question.
What else do I need to have ready before I can launch my blog?
Your blog needs more than just a first post to thrive. To give it the best advantage, you’ll want a clean, professional design, and you’ll need a handful of other pages to help readers familiarize themselves with you and find more useful information within your topic/niche.
Here’s a check list of things you should have ready before you launch your blog:
- Clean, professional design? Without this readers will just click away. If you’re not confident you can make one yourself and you don’t like any of the templates provided by your blogging software, you can pay someone else to do it. Just don’t give yourself a disadvantage by publishing without a professional design.
- About page–this is where readers should find a picture of you and some back story–where you grew up, where you went to school, what you do for a living now, where you live now and a little bit about how you got where you are today.
- Collected Works/Products Page–if you have a book for sale, or have been published before either on or offline, or want to sell all your old clothes through your blog, you’re going to need a page which either lists all your published works or all the products you have for sale. This enables readers to get still closer to you and to make a decision whether or not they’d like to hire you.
- Contact Page–This page should have either a contact form or a listing with your email address, phone number if you’re comfortable giving that out, fax, or other preferred method of contact with your readers/customers. Depending on how much access you want readers to have to you, you might even list forums/groups you participate in and your username in those places.
When you’ve got all these things on your blog site up and ready to go, there’s one last question to ask yourself:
Who am I going to tell about my blog launch?
This is perhaps the most important thing of all. The people who you share your blog launch with can help you build a strong following and can become your first loyal readers–or might only read your first post and never bother to check back. You’ll obviously want to tell your supportive friends and family about it so they can come congratulate you on your new blog and spread the word amongst their contacts. Less supportive family or friends can be left out for now–your blog’s still fragile, and you don’t want to let people who will discourage you or bring you down see your blog until it’s already going strong.
What about when you run out of friends and family? Well, hopefully you’ve already set up an account on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. Share your new blog with all your contacts on these social media sites. These might be tiny followings and there might be some overlap–but your friends and family probably won’t be mad if they get one email and one Facebook message about your blog, as long as they see it’s a mass message.
What about news sites? Not too many will cover new blogs. There are services which, for a fee, will distribute a press release about your new blog to all kinds of news sources. Personally, I’ve never used them and I’ve still experienced quite a bit of blog growth, but I have been told they’re worth it. If you can put an interesting spin on it–like if you’re already a local celebrity or your blog is based on your local business–you might get some bites from local reporters. Don’t expect the big newspapers to cover your blog launch–in fact, I’d suggest not relying on newspapers at all and just spreading the word through your own network.
Once you have the answer to all three of these questions and you’ve checked off everything on your lists, it’s about time to launch your blog. Next week I’ll talk a little bit about sustaining your blog and growing your following.
If you are creating a blog right now and you do launch a blog sometime over the next couple of weeks with the help of my advice, send me a link and I’ll add you to my sidebar–and maybe even write up a post sharing your new blog with my readers.
Every blogger–or other writer who’s actually expected to produce something regularly–should have a plan B for when things hit the fan. Rather than a small white pill, the plan B for a writer should be a back up of writing: a collection of spare blog posts, article drafts, half-finished fanfiction chapters ready to be rounded out at any moment, or whatever else you’re expected to publish on a regular basis.
I haven’t always been the greatest at this. For the last two weeks I’ve missed blog posts due to crisis situations–and because I didn’t have a plan B. I should have had at least three spare blog posts on hand. I didn’t, and therefore my blog sat unloved for a day.
So last week, instead of beating myself up over missing a post, I started creating a plan B. Nevermind that it’s too late for my most recent crisis, it will be helpful in the next one.
Today I’d like to help you create your own plan B. This exercise was designed specifically to help create a backup of blog posts, but with some modifications should be able to fit whatever kind of writing you need it to.
And now, let’s make our plan B:
Step One: Prepare a list of categories. The first thing you should do is write the name of your website/blog at the top of a large piece of paper. Then, every four or five lines down the page, write down a category of potential posts/articles for your blog. For me, these categories include novel planning, revision, character development, and dialogue. List the things that you talk about most often which can be divided into subcategories if you can’t figure out what your proper blog categories are.
Step Two: Brainstorm for each category. Now, in the space between categories, I want you to brainstorm post ideas which fit within each category. For example, when I did this exercise most recently, under revision I had a post about staying motivated through the edits, and under the dialogue section I wrote out a series of writing exercises which I plan on sharing with you later this month. Just put in whatever comes to mind, whatever can be written about each sub-topic.
Once you have each category filled, it’s time to move on to the next step…
Step Three: Give each idea its own space. Depending on the size of the notebook/paper you’re using and how detailed the posts/articles you usually write are, you can give each idea either half a page or a full page. Write each post idea you’ve had in big bold letters over its own section with enough room to brainstorm. Then start figuring out how you’re going to fill in each post. Ask yourself questions: what can I mention to prove my point about this? How can I help my readers learn more about this? How can I get my readers to reach up and out for their goals?
By the end of this exercise you should have a handful–I usually aim for about a dozen–back up blog posts outlined with point-form notes, ready to be made into complete blog posts at a moment’s notice. It’s always a good idea to draft a couple of these posts, too, so that they’re ready and waiting for when your next crisis hits.
Do you have a plan B for when crisis makes it hard to write?
My writing has hit a low point over the last couple of weeks. It would seem that it took a blow after I finished Moonshadow’s Guardian. The story had me completely entranced, and I’m already eager to begin the first rewrite. Currently I am playing the waiting game-with plenty of school work to distract me in the meantime-because I know that you should never start editing right away. However, rewrites are going to begin sooner than I originally planned; I need to rewrite this story, to make some very specific changes to it, to get it out of my system.
Some Secrets Should Never Be Known, as much as I love the story, will have to take the backburner for now. I know that I cannot currently give it the attention and time that it deserves. When, as a writer, you are told that you must write every day and move quickly from one project to the next, this kind of thing can be hard to admit-even to yourself. But it’s important to remember that every writer is different, every writer’s needs and strengths are different; there’s no one way to go about becoming an author.
Keeping this in mind I’m not going to yell at myself for not accomplishing much on the writing front this week; instead I’m going to do some research-reading a new book I bought about castles-and then jump right into the rewrite of Moonshadow’s Guardian.
Fiction isn’t the only thing that’s been hard for me in the last couple of weeks; the blog posts which were plentiful in my head at the beginning of the year seem to have dried up. I know I want to start a new series of blog posts for Friday mornings, but I have no idea what to focus on or where to begin. Sometimes writing really is like pulling nails, both on the fiction front and on the non-fiction front. Sometimes it means you have to push harder; other times it means you have to take a break.
As a blogger I have one advantage that lots of other writers don’t; I can ask you guys what I should write about next. This is my first poll and it will be up for a week. Come back next week to find out the results-and to see my shiny new series of posts.