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Must Writers Blog?

writers blog

As someone who’s written 2,500 blog posts and counting, you may be surprised that I don’t think a writer must blog. Here are two considerations, followed by a blogging option:

Fiction Writers

It’s hard for fiction writers to build a following with a blog. Unless you want to blog and have ideas for posts that align with your author brand, then don’t do it.

Your agent or publisher may have different ideas, but don’t worry about that unless the issue comes up.

Nonfiction Writers

It’s much easier for nonfiction authors to blog. Just blog about the same things you write about in your books. Build an audience around your content, and they will likely be interested in your books too. Given that, don’t blog if you:

  • Don’t have the time
  • Lack of incentive
  • Fear it will drain you
  • Aren’t ready to commit to it
  • Don’t have enough ideas of what to blog about

Blogging Alternatives

As an alternative to starting your own blog, you can look to guest post on other people’s blogs.

Blogging isn’t right for everyone. If it’s not right for you, invest your time and creativity elsewhere.

Some publishers and agents insist that your blog, but if you know it’s not the right fit for you, don’t let them force you into doing something you don’t want to do.

Just walk away, and look for a publisher or agent that doesn’t take such a hardline approach.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Social Media Posts

social media posts

With social media posts, I always want to direct people to my website, my home base, that I own and control.

This means posting a link on social media. I do that on Twitter (because there isn’t room for the full post) and on Facebook (because a link is all I have time for).

I do this on LinkedIn too, but I don’t see many other people doing that. Instead, they put their entire post on LinkedIn. But I don’t recommend that. Direct them to your website.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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WordPress.org versus WordPress.com

wordpress.org versus wordpress.com

Some people say that if you’re blogging as a hobby, wordpress.com is okay, but if you consider yourself a professional you need to go with WordPress.org (the self-hosted version). Is it possible to do a professional website with WordPress.com?

Though I’ve seen some successful authors use a WordPress.com powered website, it always surprises me. Yes, you can have many of the elements of a professional site using WordPress.com, but it will always have a basic, less-than-optimum appearance.

If you have the time and the interest, you can develop a nice, professional-looking site by yourself and for little cost using wordpress.org (the self-hosted option), which is why I advocate it.

As an alternative, many people will design a WordPress website for you and even host and maintain it. But the costs add up.

However, if you don’t want to invest the time or if the thought of doing WordPress.org yourself is overwhelming, then focus on making your WordPress.com site as good as you can.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Introduction to WordPress

introduction to wordpress

WordPress has two versions: hosted and self-hosted. Serious writers recommend self-hosting. But beginners can opt for the hosted version. Here is a basic introduction to WordPress:

The hosted version of WordPress (WordPress.com) is easy to learn and use. It also has minimal features. The self-hosted version of WordPress (WordPress.org) is highly flexible and rich in features. It has a steeper learning curve.

Like most people, I recommend that anyone serious about blogging use the self-hosted version, WordPress.org, and bypass the hosted version of WordPress, WordPress.com.

However, for a person not sure about blogging and interested in just trying it out, WordPress.com can accomplish that nicely and with minimal fuss and cost.

Moving content from WordPress.com to WordPress.org is not hard—for someone who has done it before. It does take a bit of effort, but transferring posts is mostly following a set of instructions. There are a lot of instructions online and this guide looks good.

However you proceed, I wish you the best. Happy blogging!

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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The Successful Author

Writers Must Read to Know What Is Marketable

Reading helps us understand what is marketable before we spend hours writing something that’s not. So does talking to others in the industry, especially agents, editors, and publishers. Also, look at the publishers’ current releases.

As a starting point here are some general principles of what is not marketable. Though there are exceptions, they are rare:

  • A book that’s too long or too short for its genre
  • A book of poetry, unless you’re famous
  • Your autobiography, unless you’re famous or infamous
  • A book of short stories, unless you are an established fiction author
  • A nonfiction book for which you have no authority or credentials
  • A topic of personal suffering that many others have already covered

Aside from that, don’t chase trends. It takes about two years to have a book traditionally published, so by the time we write our trendy piece, the trend could be over, and no one will want our book.

Instead, write what you’re passionate about. Just verify it doesn’t fit into one of the categories of what to avoid. And then write it!

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Using Clip Art in a Book or Blog Post: Learn How to Protect Yourself

clip art in a book or blog

A writer found some clip art they’re interested in using in their book, but they also had concerns. The terminology is “Royalty-free clipart for commercial use.” Is it safe to use?

First, let me say that I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.

Given that, in my opinion, the phrase gives you the protection you seek for this clip art image. However, I recommend going to a reverse image search engine, such as TinEye.com. You can upload the image in question, and they will check their index to see if anyone claims ownership.

If it’s okay to use, keep a record of the results, and then consult a couple more sites just to be sure. (Just search for “reverse image search engines“ for other options).

If it’s not legally permissible for you to use, then buy a royalty-free license (not an editorial license) or find alternative artwork. If you buy a non-exclusive license than others can use it as well. A more expensive exclusive license means only you can use it.

You can learn more about using clip art and other important book publishing info in Helen Sedwick’s excellent book Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook. (Check out my review.)

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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How to Use Blog Categories for Greater Impact

Use blog categories.

There are three purposes for blog categories.

1. Search Engine Optimization

One use of blog categories is that it helps with search engine optimization (SEO), which allow the search engines to better find and list posts.

2. Reader Engagement

The second use of blog categories is to help readers find similar content. For example, if we blog about three subtopics and a reader is only interested in one of them, then they can click on the category and see just those posts.

3. Writer Organization

A third benefit of using blog categories is to help us in our own organization. Here are two examples: I recently tweaked the focus on one of my blogs, and some of the old posts no longer fit my new vision. Since I had these old posts in one category, it was easy to find and remove them.

In another instance, I decided to draft a book using old blog posts. They were all in one category, which made them easy to find and access.

Selecting Blog Categories

Here are some other items about categories:

  • Having only one category offers no benefits.
  • Having too many categories is confusing. Aim to have three to eight.
  • Using the default of “uncategorized” is unprofessional and accomplishes nothing.

Don’t confuse categories with tags. They seem similar but work differently and have different applications. To learn more, check out my post about categories and tags.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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How to Protect Blog Content

Legally protect your blog content

A lot of writers wonder if it’s necessary or wise to protect blog content that they post online. What if it is material for other writing projects? Should it be freely accessible online?

First, I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. A great resource is Helen Sedwick’s book Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook. This is an excellent tool that every writer should buy, study, and implement.

Given that, here is what I suggest to protect blog content.

To start, place a copyright notice on your blog. This will help keep honest people honest, and it lets readers know you’re serious about your work. But beyond that, it accomplishes little else.

If you’re concerned with people copying your work, that is stealing it, there is always a chance it could happen. Though the risk is small, there’s nothing you can do to prevent it—short of not blogging—so the best thing is to not worry about it, and post what you want to post.

If the posts will be part of a future book—something many people have done—you might want to hold back some content, but I have heard of bloggers who blogged their entire nonfiction book and didn’t feel it hurt sales. You can also post excerpts from your indie published book.

However, if the posts are from your traditionally published book, check with your publisher. They may not want you to post anything from your book, and depending on your contract with them, it may not even be legal.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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How to Setup Your Website and Blog

How to setup your website and blog

The Technical Aspect of Setting Up Your Website and Blog

I’m a big fan of WordPress and so are a lot of other people. Thirty percent of the top million websites worldwide rely on WordPress for their website and blog. I recommend you join them and use WordPress to setup your website.

There Are Two Options of WordPress

WordPress.com is simpler and cheaper (approaching free) to setup and use, but it doesn’t have as many features or flexibility.

WordPress.org is a far more powerful website platform, but it’s also more involved to use and setup your website. In addition, there are costs for this option: buying a domain name and paying for hosting.

Regardless, I recommend that you use one of these two WordPress options to setup your website and blog.

WordPress Resources

I have a blog series about getting started with WordPress. I think these posts will get you started quite nicely.

And when it comes time to write for your blog, here’s another series of posts to consider in producing content for your blog.

Happy blogging.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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How to Discover What to Blog About

Discover what to blog about

To start your own blog, there are two aspects: the technical aspect and the content aspect, what is, what to blog about. Let’s look at the content part of blogging first:

Find Your Blog Focus

If you write whatever you feel like writing (as I did when I started), you will never find an audience. Pick one topic as your blog’s focus. Then go to the next step.

Brainstorm Ideas

With your blog topic or focus determined, brainstorm for ideas. Don’t stop until you hit at least twenty ideas you can blog about. You may not use them all, but at least you know you have plenty of ideas to write about. If you can’t come up with twenty, then you won’t likely be able to sustain your blog, so search for another topic.

Pre-Write Five Blog Posts

Before you even set up your blog, write your first five posts. Some people launch their blog with several posts already there.

Set a Blogging Schedule

You should plan to blog at least once a week. How long did it take to write each of your posts? Do you have that much time every week to devote to it?

If you still want to blog, you can move forward with the technical aspects of setting up a blog. More on that in future posts.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!