When I was planning the talk, I contacted several bloggers and Facebookers that I know amongst authors and asked for their experiences. When I asked Marsha Moore / Talli Roland some questions, her answers seemed so interesting and spot-on, that I decided to put them up here for you, with Marsha's permission.
Marsha blogs as Marsha Moore at http://marshawrites.blogspot.com and as Talli Roland at http://talliroland.blogspot.com
I told Marsha that the reason I had picked her as an interesting case was because of the difference between her two blogs. Her answer goes to the heart of "successful" blogging:
"Actually, the difference in my two blogs shows that if you invest time and energy you can get a lot more results. My Marsha blog has been around for about a year and a half. I don’t really have a ‘theme’ for it, I don’t return comments and I’m not proactive with it. I have 110 followers. My Talli Roland blog has been around since March. I have over 360 followers because I proactively follow people and I return comments! Big difference!"It's the Talli blog I'm more interested in here, because of the phenomenal number of comments you get. Can you start with some facts about your Talli blog?
"I started my Talli Roland blog the first week of March 2010, mainly to build a platform as a writer and to network with other writers. My posts are focused on writing-related subjects. Since I write rom-coms, I try to make the posts reflect the tone and voice of my writing: upbeat, a bit quirky and fun. Right now I have over 360 followers. I post five times a week at a minimum – and sometimes on weekends too."What made you decide to start the Talli blog when you already had your Marsha one?
"I’ve blogged for a year and a half under my real name, Marsha Moore, but when my publisher suggested I use a pen name for my fiction writing I realized I’d have to begin building a platform for Talli Roland, too. I find blogging a great way to connect with people from around the world in a more in-depth way than on Twitter, for example, and I think it’s an important way to establish a presence on the web. It’s a good tool to let people know about your book (although if that’s all you do, you probably won’t have any followers) and help them feel like they’ve invested in your journey as an author. Not only that – it’s fun!"What did you think about / plan in advance?
"I don’t plan much in advance. I do think about the posts I write, though: I try not to be negative, I definitely don’t criticize other authors, agents or publishers, and I always try to make my posts relevant to the audience reading my blog. I also try to make the posts personal – people want to see a bit of ‘you’ in the blog." [Really important points. Some bloggers become well known for being nasty or vengeful - despite my pathetic attempt to be crabbit, being nasty doesn't work for an author. Readers won't buy your books if they don't like you. Silly, but true.]Why do you think you generate so many comments - do you have any tricks or tips?
"Quite simply, I generate so many comments because I take the time to comment on my followers’ blogs. If someone comments on my blog, I always return the comment on their blog. It does take a lot of time in the beginning, but once you’ve established the comment ‘cycle’ you’ll see people coming to your blog straight away to comment as soon as you post something. I also keep my posts quite short and easy to read, and I try to pose a question at the end of the post so people have something specific to respond to. Funnily enough, I have found that the more entertaining and less serious my posts are, the more comments they get." [Again, replying to comments is really important - people need to feel it's a conversation. You don't have to reply to everything though, and silly things are best ignored, rather than answered.]What do you like about blogging?
"Writing’s quite solitary so I love that you can connect with writers from everywhere. Bloggers are also very supportive and willing to help. It’s a very interactive community and full of great information and resources! I also like that you can write without being too structured or having to worry about plots!" [And the feedback is instant, unlike with the book that you are writing now, which won't be read for ages.]Has it benefited your career, do you think? If so, how?
"It definitely has – in terms of promotion, anyway. Through my Marsha Moore blog (which I do not apply the same comment-returning principles to – and the difference in followers and comments is very clear!), I’ve ‘met’ writers who have helped me promote my travel guides. They’ve given me blurbs, contacted other bloggers and even helped me get featured in print publications. None of it would have happened without my blog. I have also met agents through my blog who’ve given me invaluable advice and support.Did your publisher/agent encourage or ask you to blog?
I had my Marsha Moore blog pre-publishing deal. My Talli Roland blog came about because I’d just signed a publishing deal. My publisher didn’t ask me to do it but I’d read so much about the importance of on-line platforms so I knew I wanted to do it."Words of warning?
"Blogging can take over your life if you let it! I have very set hours for blogging and I only do it after my writing work is done. [God, you're disciplined!] Also, be careful what you put out there – in your posts and your comments on other blogs – because if agents etc Google you, your comments as well as your posts come up." [VERY good advice!]Thanks so much, Marsha / Talli! Excellent points. And we are going to enjoy looking at your blog on August 22nd. I hope you'll have it nice and tidy for our visit!.
You can also follow Marsha on Twitter as @marshawrites and @talliroland
Thank you, Nicola, for having me here! I'd love to hear about other people's experiences blogging and building a platform.
Brilliant blogging tips, and good advice to bear in mind someone may read your comments, as well as the original post.
I've noticed a definite increase in hits and comments, since I started visiting others blogs and leaving comments. I think I'm still working out what the blog's theme is and I definitely need to work on scheduling blogging time. I'm nowhere near as disciplined as Talli/Marsha! Thanks both for the useful post.
I love Talli's blog and I really think she has it spot on. Thanks for sharing some of the secrets.
Great advice, Talli! Especially the bit about staying upbeat. Even if I'm having a bad day, I try to find a way to turn it into something funny, or post something that cheered me up, because no one wants to read a blog that's a downer.
I'm a big fan of Talli's blog so it was great to read more about it.
Regarding the returned comments - when I heard that The Hating Game was coming out, I didn't say to people 'Oh, a blogger I really like has a book coming out!' I said 'A blogger I know has a book coming out!' While I don't know a single thing about Talli that's not on her blog, returning comments does create a more personal connection which has to help with promotion. It's more likely to stick in someone's head.
Also it reaches more people. I have discovered most of the blogs I like by reading a comment that I liked and following the link.
Great interview. I really like how you blogged under your real name and then decided to build a platform under your pen name. Hmmm....
Thanks for the blogging advice, Talli, and for having her here, Nicola.
Some great blogging tips there! Talli's is a really friendly and informative blog, I know I appreciate Talli's comments and especially the time she invests in the blog and her many followers!
I have found the writing blogging community a very helpful and friendly place and I'm sure it must be a great help with promotion.
Thanks for all your comments - great to see some new people here. There's a real warmth about Talli's blog and I think that's something people respond to.
Sorry I can't respond to each comment properly - am heading out to do a book festival event and won't be at my desk much over the next two weeks. Will try to keep up with commenting as much as poss - I'll be reading them all but might not be able to reply.
Interesting because I started my blog with the vague idea I should perhaps have a blog! I had no idea what, if anything, I would write about but I knew I did not want to be tied to a themed blog.
Since then I have collected a small band of 'followers', some of whom almost certainly do not actually read the blog (I read anyone who 'follows' me and a few who do not.)
If I do not do any other writing in a day I do try and write a blog post by 9am (by then I have often been up and working at the day job for as much as five hours so it is not as early as it might seem). I really appreciate other people's comments. There are some that do not appear on the blog itself but come to me as e-mails - especially from two quite surprising people.
"Talli" you are there on my list of followers and I put my paws on your blog - but we write entirely different things.
Kath is absolutely right though - visiting other blogs and leaving comments brings people to your blog. I found that out again this morning. (Love to meet a few more bloggers!)
Nicola - thanks!
excellent post, networking is hugely important for any online presence, certainly visiting other people's blogs builds up a community
What an excellent interview! I've followed Talli's blog since she began it and it's still of one of my favorites. She raises some excellent points here I hadn't considered before.
Thanks for this - very interesting and timely. I wonder, though, how many of the followers are primarily readers and how many are aspiring authors? Of course these two groups overlap, but I wonder how one reaches the readers rather than the writers. Also, how to build an effective online presence when your main audience is child readers, who (hopefully!) have restricted access to the internet.
I'm really just wondering how, as a writer, one reaches READERS, rather than other writers (lovely though they are :)).
I'm trying to reach readers at the moment with a new YA novel I'm writing and publishing instalments from on a blogsite. I've only just started posting the first chapter (the book's three quarters done) and am pretty new to this, so it will be interesting to see if it does reach readers. The site's here by the way - www.davidcalcutt.wordpress.com/
Eeks! I missed all these wonderful comments while kicking about in Euston waiting for company! Thanks, all!
Leila - you raise an interesting point. If you're blogging primarily to reach readers, you'd probably need to tailor your posts towards different topics. I use my blog to network with other writers, so I tend to talk about writing. I think Facebook is a great way to connect with readers and potential buyers.
Such a great post! Thanks.
I don't think of Talli as Marsha!
Her active friendly blog is one I love following. She works hard at keeping in touch and is so much fun.
Thanks for the interesting post.
Talli/Marsha is terrific! She's a sweetie and it shines through in her blog - can't wait for her book :)
Hi, Talli and Nicola, I've learned a lot about blogging from Talli's site. I comment everyday on her site, not only because she's a fellow Canadian (though living abroad) but because she's a great blogging buddy! Hope you don't mind the phrase.
Loved the interview.
I love Talli and Marsha's blog. Her sincerity and good humor shines through in both.
If I met her in person, I wonder what I'd call her?
I really enjoy reading Talli's blog. I do try to read every post even though I don't always leave a comment
I'm quite new to Talli's blog, but loved it and quickly became a follower for all the reasons she listed :o)
Couldn't agree more that commenting on other people's blogs is the best way to bring readers to yours.
How fun to see one of my absolute favorite blogging buddies on your blog, Nicola. I first "met" Marsha on your blog when her book 24 Hours London was featured and I was the lucky winner of the book and a t shirt. I've followed her blog ever since and followed Talli before I knew her secret identity. I laughed all day when I found out Talli and Marsh were one and the same.
I cannot WAIT for her book!!!
I admire Talli Roland, as well as your good self, Nicola, being people whom I see as successful and professional bloggers as part of your writing career.
My blog is foundering, and has been for a while. It doesn't help that I feel that no one would be interested to read my understanding and opinions concerning aspects of creative writing. So the majority of my posts have been concerning my own writing, not how they were written, or any other aspects of the writing process as information. As Talli pointed out, if that's all one writes about, you aren't going to get many followers. And I haven't many followers!
I've a great enthusiasm again for writing, something which grows day by day, ever since I started again two or three years ago, after an absence of over 20 years. But I have to say that I can't really gain much enthusiasm for blogging any more. And any enthusiasm I still have remaining is getting less and less every day. I understand the importance of building a platform, of which a blog is part of, but I think I'm just not cut out for that aspect.
I can foresee that my blog will dwindle to nothing relatively soon. As for my online presence, my platform, (which is very important in this day and age, I know): if I ever get published, I'll create a website, which would contain a blog. This will still be about myself and my writing, and not much else though.
I assure you I'm not egocentric/egotistic; and I know only too well that if/when I become a published author, that would be just the beginning of a very long (but enjoyable) road; shared with thousands upon thousands of other writers far better and more experienced than I am. But the website will serve as a vehicle for showing the product(s) I have, and where they can be bought.
I think what I'm trying to say is that I'd like to think I have the creative energy and ideas for writing novels, but not for blogging. I admire those that can do both though, and hope this way of strengthening your platform goes from strength to strength. And Talli's words will surely help a lot in achieving this.
Wow, thank you everyone for all the lovely comments! You've given me a big warm squishy feeling -- and I mean that in a good way! :) Thanks again to Nicola for having me here.
Blogging is definitely a reciprocal thing, as I've come to learn. If you follow people and take the time to comment on their blog, nine times out of ten they'll do the same for you! And... bloggers are such a friendly and helpful community (as proven here!).
What a great post - and so right about keeping it positive.
Talli is such an awesome and heartfelt blogger! She is one that I found after blog hopping one day and immediately fell in love!
I'm also impressed by the number of comments she gets on a daily basis. I wish I was as savvy as her but I am still learning to structure my time with blogging, writing and my full-time job. It's not always easy.
I started blogging in January and so far it's just grown and grown into what it is today. I'm glad to push as many comments as I do and have as many people interested in what I have to say. It's always a fantastic feeling!
Talli is so knowledgeable about blogging & the best part about her blogs is that they are upbeat. Her warm personality shines through from her home in London to all her blogging friends around the world. I always make sure I read her blog everyday as I never know what she'll write about & I like that. :)
Picking up a few points - (and thanks, all, for your contributions.)
Leila R - interesting point about whether one is just talking to other writers, and wondering how to reach readers. You're right that for reaching young readers a blog is not usually the best way, unless your blog had some kind of "persona" that was specially for them, but i don't advocate creating a false persona for blogging. I think Facebook is a better way, though they have to be 13 to be on FB, as you know. I do, however, think that a) writers are readers and b) writers know readers, so, if your blog is about your books, your readers will send their friends there. It does, I feel, depend on the nature of your blog and your books and whether those two things can be matched. Blogging is NOT the answer for everyone.
Cat - your voice and honesty shine through your blog and certain themse appear often, so although you might think it wasn't set up to be about any one thing, it does have a real coherence. When someone reads your blog, they may not know what you're going to talk about but they know it is likely to be something interesting and important.
KarenG - your stpry of "meeting" Marsha and later laughing when you found she was also Talli is funny because it chimes with my experience. I'd "met" Marsha as Marsha and author of 24 Hour London and invited her as a blog baby when i heard of her publishing deal. Later, when my last novel came out, i had a twitter giveaway for a copy of it, and Talli won it. I said I'd meet her in London to give her the copy, as i was going to London the next week, and she then told me she was Marsha and that I already knew her!
I think that the main two things shining from all these comments - thanks so much, everyone - are a) the importance of friendliness and b) the importance of commenting on other blogs.
Am now going to send this comment before Blogger destroys it. back in a minute.
David - I'm interested to know your purpose for posting your novel-in-progress on a blog. Obviously you're not hoping for publication by a publisher, since you've already used up first rights by publishing it yourself. You're brave (some might use another word!) to post it in progress instead of waiting till you'd finished it and had a chance to reflect, review and revise from a distance. Of course, famously, a few authors have written in this way, but very few. I'd love to know your thinking. I am now going to leave a comment on it...
SpiderGriffin - you make a VERY important point, which is that very often a blog is not as useful as one might think for an unpublished and not-yet-contracted author, and you are wise to consider waiting. Talli has a book deal, and some other blgogers find a way to blog interestingly about their rocky road to publication before publication happens, but there are not limitless ways of describing the knockbacks and being able to write an entertaining blog is NOT the same as being able to write a novel. Two different skills. No shame in recognising that you have a passion for and skill in one but not the other.
Thanks you ALL for all your comments - I will use/mention lots of them during my workshop.
Thank you again, everyone, for all your wonderful comments - and again to Nicola for having me here!
Oh I love Talli! She was one of the first commenters on my blog when I got started... I haven't popped over to read her in a while but I know I've been missing out. Thanks putting her back on my radar!
Great interview Talli! I think it's great that you're so dedicated to commenting, and I really enjoy your posts - they're always upbeat and informative. Here's to you! *raises glass of wine*
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