How Long Should a Blog Post Be?

Remember that we write for people and not computer algorithms

People have different opinions as to the ideal length of a blog post. When I first started blogging almost ten years ago, I heard you needed at least 200 words for search engines to be able to learn enough information about your post to categorize it. Then the minimum length jumped up to 300 words, with the warning that shorter posts would not be indexed by search engines.

For years that was my goal, to write a post at least 300 words long. In some contexts I still shoot for that. However, many of my clients want content that is at least 500 words long. This seems to be the new standard, if such a thing exists.

Despite this there are supporters of 800 to 1200-word posts, with some people advocating 1,500 to 2,000. On the extreme, we have people producing longform content. Their goal is 5,000-word posts and even longer. I even heard of one person producing a 20,000-word post. That’s the length of a short nonfiction book. If I write 20,000 words, I prefer it be in a book and not posted online.

So, this begs the question: What’s the right length for a blog post?A blog post should be as long it needs to be to cover the topic. Click To Tweet

One answer is as long as it needs to be to cover the topic. No less and no more. If you need to start padding your word count to hit a target length, you’ve lost sight of the goal: the reader.

Another answer considers your target demographic. For example, if you’re writing to busy business people, then keep your post short and succinct. No matter how interested they may be in your content, they’re unlikely to read a longer post because they’re unwilling to invest the time to do so. And even if they try, they are likely to be interrupted before they reach the end, and the chance of them getting back to it to finish it is slim.

Of course, if you’re writing for a specific website, then you better hit their word-count target. The same applies if you’re writing for a client. The client is always right, even if you disagree.

The key consideration in all this is to remember that when we write, we write for people, not search engines or computers. Yes, we must keep the SEO algorithms in mind, but they are secondary in importance to producing great content that readers read.

That’s always been my goal, and I encourage it to be yours, too.

(By the way, this post is 430 words long. I think the length is just right.)

Use Dragon Speech Recognition Software to Write Faster

Celebrate the benefits of using your voice to produce your first draft

A couple years ago I heard about authors using dictation to write the first draft of their books. Although intrigued by the idea of using speech-to-text software to write, I dismissed it as impractical. However, as more and more writers extolled the virtues of speech recognition software, I decided to test dictation for myself.

Aside from the promise of being able to write faster, there’s also the realization that by using my voice instead of my fingers for my first draft, I save my wrists from the hint of strain that sometimes plagues me.

Google Docs: For my initial test, I sought a no-cost evaluation. Accessing Google Docs from a Chrome browser presents the option for “voice typing” under the tools tab. Its basic command set results in a short learning curve. Within minutes I wrote my first blog post using dictation. Even with my first attempt, I realized the time-saving benefits of dictation.

To achieve increased accuracy, I bought a USB headset, which helped quite a bit. For a couple months I continued to use the voice typing feature in Google Docs to do my first drafts. Then I would copy the results into Word for editing and proofreading.

Dragon: My next step was to get serious with dictation, and I bought the highly recommended Dragon dictation software. All the basics I learned using Google Docs applied to Dragon. However, Dragon with its vast degree of power and flexibility also carries with it a more detailed command set and with it a longer learning curve.

Though I’m still learning some of Dragon’s more powerful capabilities, I’m already seeing great results with the parts of the software I am using. In fact, I like using dictation so well that it seems a chore to type out my words.Using dictation I can write my first draft in half the time. Click To Tweet

Overall, I have reduced the time it takes to produce a first draft by at least 50 percent, possibly up to 75 percent. I must point out, however, that I do have to spend more time editing the words when I dictate. Overall, I presently have about a 33 percent increase in output when factoring in the time saved with dictation and the time added for more editing.

I’m sure that as I continue to use dictation, my speed and efficacy will further increase. I can’t wait!

The Key Consideration in Self-Publishing Versus Traditional Publishing

The Key Consideration in Self-Publishing Versus Traditional PublishingIn the past few weeks I covered the pros and cons of traditional publishing versus self-publishing (sometimes called indie publishing). I strove to be fair in comments and balanced in my coverage. Here are the four posts:

Where do I stand on this? Will I seek a traditional publisher or go the indie-publishing route?

Though this publishing deliberation looms as a decision every author needs to make on an author-by-author basis, it’s not that simple. It’s a consideration every author must make on a book-by-book basis.

Yes, depending on the book, some lend themselves to traditional publishing and others cry out for self-publishing. Critical considerations are the book’s topic, genre, and audience size, as well as an author’s goals for reach, distribution, and earnings. I have some books I hope to publish with a traditional publisher, while others I expect to go the self-publish route.

The key is that the self-publishing versus traditional publishing debate isn’t a once-and-done consideration, but it’s a topic to revisit with each book.Traditional publishing vs self-publishing isn’t an either/or decision. It’s a yes/and strategy. Click To Tweet

That’s my plan. I want to do both.

It’s called being a hybrid author. I will seek a traditional publisher when it makes sense and self-publish when that’s the better path. Combining these two options will maximize my career as an author—and hopefully my earnings potential at the same time.

Traditional publishing versus self-publishing isn’t an either/or consideration. It’s a yes/and strategy.

UR Turn: What’s the Best Writing Advice You’ve Ever Heard?

We’re wise to learn what we can from other writers who have gone before us

UR Turn, Help me finish ths post by sharing...This blog is about writing and publishing. I share what I know in the posts, and you share what you know in the comments. Our monthly segment, UR Turn, allows us to focus on this. We can learn from each other.

In addition, we can also learn from other writers through their blogs, podcasts, webinars, and books. Plus, we can read magazines about writing.

Over the years I’ve learned a great deal. I strive to apply what I learn. Then I share the results.

Today’s UR Turn question is, what’s the best writing advice you’ve ever heard?The best writing advice I’ve ever heard is to write every day. Click To Tweet

For me, the answer is easy. I’ve repeated it here many times. It is simply to write every day. Doing this changed my life and my career as a writer.

Now it’s your turn.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever heard?

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Six Downsides of Self-Publishing

Six Downsides of Self-PublishingIn my post “Five Reasons a Writer Should Self-Publish,” I listed several advantages of self-publishing. Although compelling, there are also downsides. Consider these six items:

1) Quality is Often Lacking: Traditional publishers put their books through several rounds of editing to produce the best possible product. The temptation of self-publishing is to skip these steps. Even if a professional editor is hired, the chance of them catching everything a traditional publisher would in their multiple rounds of review is slim. But too often, authors self-edit or tap a friend who, although well-intended, lacks the needed experience. From a production standpoint, there’s no reason for substandard output anymore. But it’s too easy and too tempting to cut corners.

2) Credibility May be Illusive: Although self-publishing no longer carries the stigma it once did, some people still consider it a second-rate option.

3) Self-Promotion is Required: Self-published authors are responsible for their own marketing, promotion, and sales. No one else will do it for you.Self-published authors (indie authors) must be entrepreneurs if they hope to be successful. Click To Tweet

4) The Author Must Become an Entrepreneur: Self-publishing is a business, requiring an investment of time, effort, and money—all with no promise of a return. It’s risky, and you could lose money.

5) Limited Distribution: Although some distribution options are available, they don’t match the reach of a traditional publisher. Don’t plan on your book being in bookstores.

6) No Advances: Self-publishers must shell out money to publish; advances are not part of the equation. You must spend money ahead of time and then hope to earn it back later and make a profit.

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Five Downsides of Traditional Publishing

Five Downsides of Traditional PublishingIn my post “5 Reasons Why a Writer Should Go With a Traditional Publisher,” I gave five advantages of traditional publishing. Although these reasons are compelling, there are also some downsides. Consider these five items:

1) It Takes Longer: Unless a book is “fast-tracked” it will typically take eighteen months to two years from your first pitch to it sitting on bookstore shelves. Smaller presses may be nimbler. While larger publishers seek to streamline their processes, but the bottom line is, traditional publishing takes a long time.

2) Agents Are Often Required: Increasingly, publishers will only deal with agents. It makes publishers’ jobs easier, as agents become the first level of screening. Unfortunately, finding an agent is challenging. Since agents are paid on commission they won’t take a project they don’t think they can sell.

3) Rejection is Likely: For those publishers who will talk directly to writers, the odds of them being accepted are small, sometimes less than one in a hundred. Even with an agent, rejection is expected.

4) Authors Must Market Their Own Book: Traditional publishers will do a small amount of promotion for all their authors, but the bulk of their attention and dollars go to the A-list authors. If a book is to sell, the author is the best person to make it happen.Don’t rely on book royalties to pay bills; treat them as a bonus, if they occur. Click To Tweet

5) Be Patient With Royalties: The process of publishers accounting for and paying royalties is confoundingly slow. Don’t rely on book royalties to pay bills; treat them as a bonus—if they occur. Since initial book sales are applied against the advance, some authors never sell enough copies to earn any royalties—ever.

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Do You Need a Blog to Build Your Author Platform?

Too many experts say writers must blog, but that may not be good advice

What Are You Willing to Give Up So You Can Write?As writers we’re told that if we want to be successful at publishing our work, then we need an author platform. Yes, this is true. Publishers expect writers to have a platform. In fact, it seems, platform may supersede writing quality. After all, a publisher can fix our writing much easier than they can build up our author platform.

A common example of building an author platform is blogging. At one time blogging was held up as an essential requirement if a writer wanted to land a publishing deal. I think this has moderated somewhat in the past couple years, but there are still many voices saying that writers need a blog if they hope to find success.

So, do you need to blog to build your author platform?

Since I am a blogger, it may surprise you to hear me say the answer is no. As a writer you do not need a blog.

  • If logging will distract you from writing, then don’t blog.
  • If blogging is something you dread, then you shouldn’t do it.
  • If blogging will rob you of joy or suck the life out of you, then you shouldn’t do it.

Don’t let someone guilt you into blogging if you don’t want to do it. Click To TweetDon’t let someone guilt you into blogging if you don’t want to do it. Readers will know your heart’s not in it, and they won’t follow you. When this happens your blogging accomplishes nothing. However…

  • If you like to blog, then maybe you should.
  • If blogging serves as a creative outlet, then go ahead and pursue it.
  • If you enjoy connecting with readers through your blog, then blog away.

A couple years ago, I gave a presentation about blogging at a writer’s conference. A few months later I ran into someone who heard my presentation, and she was quick to thank me.

She said because of my talk she decided not to blog. I was devastated and felt I had failed her. But she was quick to clarify. She said that in listening to me, she realized she didn’t want to blog but felt she was supposed to. My words gave her the freedom to say, “No,” and she was grateful for it.

If blogging is a burden, you shouldn’t do it. Focus on writing first, and worry about platform later.

What Are You Willing to Give Up So You Can Write?

Being a writer requires giving up other things, and making it a priority requires sacrifice

What Are You Willing to Give Up So You Can Write?It’s been said that some people really don’t want to write, they want to have written. They want to see the results, without putting in the work. Yet writing requires effort and that effort necessitates that we prioritize the things we do.

It seems everyone I know is too busy. This includes writers. We struggle to find time to write. Yet by adjusting our priorities, we can make the time. What will you give up to get there?

If writing is important to you, if having written is your goal, what will you sacrifice so you can write?

Television: I don’t know anyone who doesn’t watch TV. I try to keep my viewing habits in check, but I still spend too much time watching TV. Though this often happens late in the evening when I’m too tired to write, I also know that if I watched less TV I would have more time to write.

Social Media: The lure of social media distracts many writers from doing what they need to do. They sit down at their computer to write but decide to check Facebook first. An hour later they haven’t written a single word for their project, but they have read lots of updates and made a couple posts themselves. Next they slide over to Twitter or LinkedIn or Goodreads or Pinterest or whatever else beckons them. They never get around to writing. Scale back on social media to ramp up writing time.

Sleep: I’ve heard of many writers who give up sleep to find time to write. Personally I wouldn’t recommend it, because if I’m tired I have trouble writing or at least writing anything worthwhile. Yet I am disciplined to get up early in the morning and write, when I could roll over and sleep for a few minutes longer.We need to make some sacrifices, or we’ll never have enough time to write. Click To Tweet

Recreation: Another consideration is the things we do in our leisure time. Call this rest and relaxation. While taking time to rejuvenate ourselves is wise, too much recreation only serves as a distraction and offers no additional benefit.

Relationships: Another area is relationships. Since many writers are introverts and in some cases, recluses, be careful about giving up relationships that are meaningful and helpful. Yet some relationships aren’t beneficial. We may persist out of habit or guilt or obligation, but instead of adding to our life, these relationships suck the life from us.

It’s been said that we become a composite of the five people we spend the most time with. We need to make sure we’re spending time with the right people and avoid relationships that warrant less attention or no attention. This then becomes found time to write.

It’s wrong to assume we need to give up everything to write, but we do need to make some sacrifices or we’ll never have enough time to write. Even worse we may never even start.

UR Turn: Are You on Google+?

Despite what seems like user apathy, Google+ continues to move forward

UR Turn, Help me finish ths post by sharing...In talking about social media for authors, we’ve looked at Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Goodreads. What about Google+?

I’m on Google+, but I often wonder why.

Google+ began six years ago as a direct competitor to Facebook. That didn’t work out so well. Though I launched my page and played around with it, I didn’t get it.

Two years ago Google+ began shifting from a basic social networking site to a content curation site. I still don’t get it. But I’m still there.Do you use Google+? What do you like about it? Click To Tweet

And this year, they rolled out some new features.

Maybe someday I’ll understand how to use Google+ and begin to do something with it other than automatically post my blog entries.

I want to know what you think about Google+. Do you have a presence there? Do you use it? My page is https://plus.google.com/+PeterDeHaanAuthor

Your Turn: In the comment section below link to your Google+ account or let us know what you think about it.

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Five Reasons a Writer Should Self-Publish

Five Reasons a Writer Should Self-Publish

1) Greater Control: Self-published authors enjoy more say over their work and the finished product. This can be good, or it can work against them, but either way they have more control, usually a lot more.

2) Earn More Per Book: Self-published authors earn more on each book sale, generally much more: five times as much or even greater.

3) Faster: Production of a self-published book is quicker, putting it in the hands of readers faster than a traditional publisher could ever hope to do. This means writers can start selling books sooner and make money quicker.Self-publishing is ideal for small and undefined markets. Click To Tweet

4) Ideal for Small Niches: If your market is small or hard to reach, traditional publishers will not likely be interested. Self-publishing is ideal for small and undefined markets.

5) Great for Entrepreneurs: Self-publishing is effectively running a small business. The entrepreneurially minded will enjoy this option, realizing the rewards of hard work.

Given all this, wouldn’t every writer want to self-publish?

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