Monday, August 2, 2010

If you blog it, they will come

First off, I must point out that I said come.

Now that we’ve covered the requisite immature joke, welcome to my six-month blogiversary!

As I mentioned in yesterday’s SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT, I’m thrilled not only to make it through my first six months of blogging with minimal therapy, but also to be chosen as one of five debut authors blogging for the 2011 Debutante Ball.

To celebrate, I’m devoting the entire week to the subject of blogging.

Let me start with the caveat that I don’t claim to be an expert, and I know there are hundreds of authors with much better blogs and much bigger followings.

But I am pleased with how much this blog has grown in six months, and I want to share some of what I’ve learned so far.

In the beginning, my only readers were my mom, my agent, and a handful of kind souls who arrived by accident after googling “pet me.”

Things have changed a bit.

Last month, I had nearly 6,000 total page views, 4,300 actual visits, and about 1,800 unique visitors. On a typical day, 150-200 people stopped by. On good days, there were 300-400 unique visitors. The posts averaged 20-25 reader comments, with some prompting 50+.

Those numbers make me giddy, grateful, and a little incontinent.

But mostly, they make me ponder what brings readers here. I’ve had several people email me recently seeking advice on how to draw and keep blog readers.

Here’s what I’ve told them:

Give it to me, baby. We don’t like to admit it, but we’re selfish creatures. We want blog posts that GIVE us something. Maybe it’s a writing tip or a link to another good site. Before I click “publish” on any post, I ask myself, what am I giving readers?

I write romantic comedy, so cheap laughs is my first answer, but I don’t want it to be the only one. What else can I give? Advice? Inspiration? Discussion? Gonorrhea? If I’m not giving you two things every day, you have my permission to stomp away grumbling that I’m not putting out.

You may not write comedy, but consider what you do have to offer. Is there a subject you know well? An amusing story you can share? A list of tips for identifying toenail fungus? Give people something they want, and you’ve given them a reason to keep coming back.

Stick to a schedule.
From the start, I knew I wanted to blog every weekday. Not all writers have time for this, and to be honest, it’s not necessary. What’s important is that you keep some schedule. Kristina Martin has a delightful blog she posts to twice a week on Mondays and Fridays. I always know when to pop by for a new post and a chuckle about one-armed strippers.

If you’re committed to doing it daily, I commend your libido suggest you take a tip from Cynthia Reese’s playbook. Cynthia juggles a full-time job, motherhood, and a writing career. Clearly she has oodles of free time on her hands to sit around eating bon-bons and writing blog posts. Though she has a new post up each weekday, she accomplishes it by writing several posts in advance and setting them to go up automatically in Blogger.

Consider how often you want to blog, and then commit to keeping that schedule. Consistency is key!

Give a little, get a little. I know there are writers who can dash off a clever blog post and kick back with a cigar to watch the readers stampede. I’m not one of them. Unless your name is preceded by the words, “New York Times Bestseller," you may have to work a bit harder to let potential readers know you exist.

Interact with people on Twitter. Find blogs similar to yours and leave comments that show you’re engaged. (Note: commenting, “ur blog is cool, want a fake Rolex?” does not show you’re engaged). Branch out and explore blogs that are nothing like yours. You might be surprised at the readers you draw if you step outside your comfort zone. Perhaps there’s a network of gay Jewish lion tamers just dying to read your post on choosing an antiperspirant.

Tell me about your blog habits. If you’re a blogger, how do you draw readers? If you’re a reader, what keeps you returning to your favorite blogs? Please share in the comments.

And please come back tomorrow to discuss the fine art of picking blog topics.

Oh, and one last thing. The Debutante Ball? I’m taking it very seriously. Very seriously indeed.
Me in my debutante ball tiara. Technically, the tiara belongs to Pythagoras. No, I'm not kidding. I'm really not.


LR said...

Aw what a pretty picture. Happy Blogiversary!

I remember reading through Janet Reid comments months ago and I saw Tawna Fenske and thought your name sounded interesting. So I clicked on your link and landed right smack in the middle of your scrotum post, which made me laugh out loud.

Back then your followers-floodgates hadn't opened yet and your parents were still commenting. :)

Congrats to you and looking forward to future (dirty/silly) posts.

Alexa O said...

I just found this blog and I am IN LOVE.

I agree with everything you said about getting readers, and I'll add this: The blog should be pretty. It should be readable and not too full of clutter. If your background is full of dancing bears, get rid of them!

The posts themselves need to have a good amount of white space because we all have ADHD and can't read huge chunks of text on a screen. Pictures help too.

Also, comments really, really need to be thoughtful. Don't leave a comment that is a naked plug for your blog! It's tacky...

I'm a fan! I'll be back for sure!

Candyland said...

Congrats! I love the tiara! And honestly, these are fabulous tips for new bloggers.

Izzy G. said...

What a lovely tiara! I'd like to see Pythagoras in it.

Great post :D Getting readers can be hard, but I'm wondering exactly how important it is to have a pretty blog (like someone said in an earlier comment). I mean, it can't hurt, and I try to keep my blog pretty but simple, but I, and some other people I know, read all the blogs I follow on Reader, where everything is just black text on white. (I have 25 followers and 24 subscribers on Google Reader, and I assume the subscribers are a subset of the followers, so that's 96%). The only time I visit a blog is when I want to make a comment.

That said, there are some blogs that look nice, but they have so many widgets that it takes my (slower than normal but not very much so) computer half a minute just to scroll down to comment. And while light text on dark backgrounds look edgy, it's hard to read. All of these things make me hesitant to comment on overloaded blogs, and if it wasn't for Google Reader, I probably wouldn't follow them in the first place.

Elizabeth Flora Ross said...

I'm one of those people who came to you for advice, and the info you shared was great! Happy blogoversary! Look forward to all you still have to share! :)

Kelly Breakey said...

Happy Blogiversary.

I stumbled across your blog quite by accident when a fellow tweeter recommended you for a Follow Friday laugh. She said I would not be disappointed and she was right.

I love the great advice you give, but also the unique way in which you give it.

Keep up the Good Work and Congrats on the Deb selection. I think they picked a winner when they selected you!


Janet Reid said...

The hell with the advice and all the pretty stuff.

I want to see Pythagoras in the tiara.
And the wetsuit.

Also, ur blog is kewl, want a rolex?

Linda G. said...

Happy Blogiversary, oh Wise and Funny One! You have cracked the blogging code. :)

Love the tiara, too. I think you should wear it all the time. Especially to yoga. And the grocery store. Add a little class to the everyday world.

Summer Frey said...

Two things that are guaranteed to keep me coming back are voice and humor--most importantly humor. That's why I lurk here so frequently, as well as many other funny blogs.

Personally, I like it when the blogs deviate from writing topics. If it's a blog I've been following for a while, chances are I feel pretty connected to that person, even if I've only commented a few times. Therefore, I like to read stories that peel back the layers just a bit more, that make them human. Most blogs do a great job of this--the ones with strictly clinical info day after day are the ones I find myself skipping over the reader...


LR, ah, the scrotum post! I had almost forgotten that one. Thanks for reminding me I need to do something about organizing/archiving past posts to make them easier to find. For those who missed the scrotum post:

Alexa O, aw, thanks! I love you too, though I do feel a need to date other people. I agree totally about the white space & short paragraphs. That's actually on my list to talk about this week :)

Candyland, you're on my list to talk about this week, too! (Good stuff, I promise).

Izzy G, great point about keeping blogs pretty but also user friendly for different types of readers. I should spend some time fiddling with Google Reader so I can see if anything I'm doing here causes problems.

Elizabeth, my old email to you is one of the things I pulled up to help with writing this post!

Kelly, shucks, you're making me blush now. Isn't that what debutantes are supposed to do? Blush prettily in my tiara and long gloves?

Janet, oh dear. Pythagoras in a tiara & a wetsuit? I'd have to get him really, REALLY drunk for that. Good idea!

Linda G, I have to tip my tiara to you, since you were one of the first people besides my mom & Michelle to actually show up here ON PURPOSE. Thanks for that!

Summer, great point about deviating from writing topics. I try to relate personal stories to writing, but sometimes I just say "to hell with it" and write a whole post about my husband trying to find his pants. I always wondered if that annoys people, but good to know it doesn't (at least not you!)

Thanks for reading, guys!

Matthew MacNish said...

Hmm, we started around the same time and you're doing much better than me. Just kidding, you're only doing slightly better than me.

Anyway the thing I enjoy most about your blog is your attitude and your hilarious willingness to make fun of yourself. There are lots of informative writing blogs out there, but few are as fun to read as yours.

I think that the biggest thing that draws readers is your content. The best part of my blog are the examples - I do guest posts every Friday where someone share their query that worked, and I sometimes share shameful old queries of mine that are decent examples of what NOT to do.

I don't do contests or awards, though I understand why people do, I just prefer for people to read for the words, not prizes.

Great post Tawna, thanks for sharing!

Cynthia Reese said...

You mean I need to put eating bon-bons on my to-do list?

Aaaack! The bon-bon that broke the blogger's back! :-)

Congrats on being doffed a deb, and happy blogiversary!

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

I just found your blog and Im a fan now--you're hilarious and adorable. Congrats on being a Deb!

Clever Cherry / Betty said...

My rotten computer ate my nicely worded post.

So I'll just say - congrats - great blog today - looking forward to the rest of the week as I'm considering blogging.

Also - read the scrotum post. Funny. And informative. For a long time I convinced myself that talent was the only thing that mattered to get published because talent was what I could control. When I finish revising my book I will be persistent.

Can't wait to read your books.

Betty Fokker said...

Has anyone EVER complained you don't put out? ;0)

Sierra Godfrey said...

Honestly, I have no idea what draws readers -- and I pay attention to things like that. On my blog, I post daily, and I have a lot of discussions and what people tell me are helpful writing topics, and I suffer from the delusion that I am funny, but my readership and comment rate is very low. Actually, perhaps that's the problem-- *I* think I'm funny. I think I just discovered the answer there.

Michelle Wolfson said...

I'm guessing there's a story behind Pythagoras and the tiara. I want it. NOW. Happy blog anniversary. You rock.

Unknown said...

I happened on your blog when someone forwarded me your post about being a "real writer." I've been reading ever since. Congratulations on you "blogiversary," and being named a Deb.

Thanks, too, for the tips. :-)

Gabriela Lessa said...

These are good tips, thank you! FYI, you do offer the humor. Thanks for making me laugh! (And shame on you for having me read your blog when I should be writing.)

Penelope said...


Thank you for the note about being consistent. You're absolute right. I'm going to set a schedule this month for posting and stick to it...we'll see how it goes! Thanks!

Taymalin said...

I stumbled onto your blog after Janet Reid posted a link, and I've been hooked ever since. You always make me laugh. I am careful never to have anything in my mouth when I read a post here, as my computer monitor does not appreciate showers. If the blog is any indication, I'm going to love your books.

Getting readers is hard for any first time blogger, and honestly, I don't know how to get people to my blog. It's very new though, so I'm not worried about it yet. It's on a subject I adore (fairy tales) so keeping to a fairly regular schedule shouldn't be too difficult.

Congratulations on being chosen by the Debutante Ball; you deserve it. And you look super cute in Pythagoras' tiara.

Geoffrey Cubbage said...

I'm surprised you didn't mention replying to comments in your advice to bloggers! You're very good about dropping everyone a line or two, even with twenty-plus comments. Congratulations on the anniversary and the well-deserved Debutante Ball posting -- I'll be sure to look for your writings there as well as continuing to follow this blog.

Elizabeth Ryann said...

Pythagoras clearly has excellent taste in tiaras. Nicely restrained, and clearly holding back the giant bling for when you're crowned Queen and he can lend you the state jewels. I love your blog, and I show up because it's funny, and the personal stories make me feel like I know you, and that makes me feel like we're friends. The writing stuff is bonus, but not really the thing I come looking for. I like hunting down specific information for when I need the info. If I learn something along the way, that's awesome. But the blogs I go back to again and again are the ones written by people I like, whom I'd just like to hang out with every day for a few minutes. Whatever that's worth. So the "writing" posts I tend to enjoy the most are the ones about things like which pen you choose to sign your contract, or what snacks you keep handy while writing. And I think one of the things that makes this style work so well is that as a daily blog, it feels more like a conversation. Especially since you take the time to respond to comments. Anyway, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! You look pretty and you're really funny. Go you!


Matthew, LOL, I almost deleted all those stats from the post because I didn't want it to seem like we're all supposed to whip out our wankers and compare size. My point in including them was just to show how things have grown -- not to astronomical numbers, but to respectable ones that will hopefully continue to climb. Great point about the examples being a big draw. I agree readers love to see not just what to do, but what NOT to do!

Cynthia, can I confess I'm not even sure what a bon-bon is?

Frankie, hilarious AND adorable? Damn, I'm feeling my head swell all of a sudden. You're too kind!

Clever Cherry, it was fun for me to go back and read that scrotum post since it was written just days before my book deal came through. I still believe every word of it -- probably even more now than I did then.

Betty Fokker, come to think of it, no. Hey look -- I said "come" again!

Sierra, I think you're funny, too! For what it's worth, I love your blog. Just give it time, and keep doing what you're doing.

Michelle, I just sent you a top-secret email, complete with photo. Now you know the story of Pythagoras & the tiara. If I can find a way to blog about it without revealing too much about his job, I'll do it :)

Jeannie, ah, the "You ARE a real author, dammit!" post. I'll be talking about that one a bit later in the week. It's still one of the most popular posts I've written, and may always be my favorite. For those who missed it, here's a link:

Gabriela, don't worry, I won't tell on you :)

Penelope, I'm not super tech-savvy and I have no idea how I set this up, but I get a nifty little email every time you put up a new blog post. Yours is the only one this happens for, and I kind of enjoy it. You may not have a consistent posting schedule, but I always know right away when you've posted something new!

Taymalin, damn, I need to send Janet Reid a box of chocolates or something for all the blog followers! You're wise not to worry about your slow buildup of followers. Just keep at it, and do it for yourself as much as for your readers.

Geoffrey, never fear, I'll be talking about responding to blog comments a little later this week. I'm tentatively thinking Thursday, but I don't have it all plotted out yet.

Elizabeth, it's interesting, some people seem to love the writing advice/info, and others seem to show up just for the silly stories. I always try to keep a good mix of both so I can hold the interest of both parties. Thanks for the feedback!

And thanks to ALL OF YOU for reading. You rock!

Kadi Easley said...

Happy Blogiversary. I found you by way of Janet Reid and came back because you made me laugh. I impressed with you ability to blog every day. It's tough. I tried it and just couldn't keep it up. Well done. And you still make me laugh almost every day. When my Internet went down last week, one of my first thoughts was, Damn. I'm gonna miss Tawna's post.

Keep up the good work. Can't wait until your book is out. Can't you convince them to bring it out sooner?

Claire Dawn said...

Yup! Even if you think you have nothing to offer, you do. I've been blogging for about 10 months, and now about 95% of my followers are writers I've never met. I guess I'm saying something they want to hear!

And on consistency: if you know you're going to miss some days, let your public know. I'm at 2 weeks of conference now, and I scheduled some posts and warned my followers that my reading their comments would be spotty. Also try hard never to miss more than 2 posts in a row.

I really can't remember how I stumbled in here about 5 months ago, but I haven't stopped laughing since. Thanks Tawna!

Anne R. Allen said...

I'm in awe of people who can blog every day, Tweet every couple of minutes, turn out a book a year, promote it, keep a day job, keep current on reading in their field, and stay married--PLUS not have social services come and take the offspring. But obviously a lot of you do it. I wish you could bottle all that energy and send it on to ordinary mortals.

Me, I blog once a week. I do a fairly well-researched and edited blogpost, but it's usually just the one. On Sundays, when not so many other folks are blogging.

But on other days, I try to read as many blogs as I can and leave a few comments. Even so, I write a lot less fiction than I used to before I started blogging. No more poetry; no more short fiction. My novel moves slower. I read a lot fewer books. Haven't figured out if it's worth it or not.

But I sure enjoy reading this blog!

Jan Markley said...

Love the tiara! I go for funny on my blog and offer information, inspiration and tips about writing. It's called Three Dead Moths in my Mailbox ... where writing meets life or life meets writing,. I look at life and make analogies to writing, and throw in a little anthropology. People seem to like it so far. I love the blogger function where you can write it ahead of time and have it post automatically.

Dr. Goose said...

I have appreciated your humor and insight. You have a way of encouraging me, and others, with your commitment to writing.

Elisabeth Black said...

I know this is slightly off topic and possibly creepy, but your hair looks fantastic in that pic. That is all.


kd easley, I was fortunate to be laid off from my day job just a couple months before my book deal came through. That, coupled with the fact that I don't have kids, is a big part of why I'm able to blog daily.

Claire Dawn, great point about alerting readers you'll be gone! I came up with the idea for this blogiversary series last week. A couple days later, we decided to leave town this whole week. I spent all day Monday writing the entire week's worth of posts. While it wouldn't have been as tough to do it with REGULAR posts, the ones this week were a little more...uh, intense. Suffice it to say, my brain was fried by the time we hit the road last night!

Anne, see my note above to KD Easley, but yeah..I'm in awe of those people, too! No kids or day job here (though the latter will likely change soon, and I suspect my blogging habits will change a bit).

Jan, I'm making a note to myself to check out your blog (I'm in the middle of a road trip right now, so I'll wait 'til I'm back and can read at a leisurely pace). It sounds cool!

Dr. Goose, plus you like my hair, right?

Elizabeth, LOL, I typed my comment to Dr. Goose right above this before I even read YOUR comment! Um, thanks. My hair tends to lighten up nicely in the summertime, and I was standing in the backyard in the perfect spot of sunset light. Pythagoras was trying to make me look "dreamy" for my debutante pic!

Thanks for reading, guys!

Unknown said...

Congrats on being a Débutante! Can't wait to read your posts :D

I started out blogging every week day. It wore me out! With trying to read as many blogs a day as I could and writing my own posts, I wasn't writing my fiction anymore. A balanced schedule is uber important, both for the blogger and their readers. Now that I'm a MWF gal, I'm much happier!