Advice for New Bloggers

Originally posted at Plum and June talking about my advice for new Bloggers.

1.  What do you think is most important for new quilting bloggers to know?  Were you given some advice when you started blogging that you could pass on?
Well I think the first thing is to just start blogging because you WANT to.  Don’t do it because “everyone” seems to be doing it or you want to become popular or other insincere reasons.  Blogging is about sharing your own journey through whatever projects you are tackling, whether that is quilting, sewing, painting, or life in general.  Not everyone will want to read your blog and not everyone needs to write a blog.  I didn’t write a blog for at least a year after I was seriously involved in the online quilting community.  And when I started I did it because I realized I had a lot more to say about WHY I was making the sewing and quilting decisions I was.  And I realized that I needed to document the things that I was making because I kept giving them away and you so easily forget what you’ve made or what it took to make it.
There wasn’t anyone that I knew well enough to ask about blogging when I started so I didn’t really get any advice.  I just started writing and invited the people that I was in bees and swaps with on flickr to read along.  And eventually others followed.

Cut To Pieces
2.  Is there anything you now know that you wish you would have known when you started your blog?  Anything you wish you had done differently?  Anything you now know NOT to do on a blog (not necessarily something you have done but something you now know never to do.) 
Well one of the things that I have learned is that having a blog is A LOT of work.  If you write a post even three times a week that means you need to generate enough content to warrant that.  You need to be taking photographs of your work and then editing them and uploading them and then finally writing a blog post.  I don’t think most people realize the time commitment that is involved with that.  So perhaps decide how much time you have to give to something like this.  Because when you are blogging, you are not sewing.  It’s really hard to keep that all in balance.
Another thing that I learned is that you need to BE YOURSELF.  People come to a blog because they like the pretty pictures or ideas, but they also come because they enjoy reading how the particular blogger writes.  So speak with your own voice.
I try not to have a lot of regrets in the blogging world.  One thing I’ve seen and learned is to “save the drama for your mama”.  People do NOT want to hear your grievances against someone else unless there is really no other resort or you would be protecting people.  But in general, be kind.  Don’t be fake.  But seriously…if you don’t have something nice to say then don’t say it.  Figure out how to air your grievances in a way that does not attack.
                   image from Cut to Pieces

3.  What would your advice be for growing readership?  Any advice on using social media to do so?

If you really want to grow your readership then you need to be involved…involved in swaps and bees and be a presence somewhere.  
Also, I personally don’t like doing this, but I know it works…throwing around pictures of popular fabric draws people in.  We’re suckers for a pretty picture of fabric we like.  
Giveaways work as well…but be prepared for people who complain…because they’re always out there.  I started with giveaways of things that I had made and went from there.  It was quite a while before I had a “sponsored” giveaway.  Giving away a precious item that you has made shows your readers that you are serious about respecting their time and appreciate that they read your blog.  I also gave away my own fabric that I purchased.   I’m not sure how many people are doing sponsored giveaways these days…it may be easier to find someone than when I first started.
4.  Do you blog surf?  If so, can you pinpoint a few aspects of a new blog that would make you want to become a follower?  And is there anything that would make you want to never visit that blog again? 
Occasionally…but I typically go outside of the quilting world when I do.  For me to follow a quilting blog, the writer has to have a style that appeals to me…that doesn’t necessarily mean that they appeal to everyone.  More often, for the blogs that I don’t follow, I will read an occasional post when I see an item that I like on flickr and want to know more about it.  HOWEVER this can only happen if the person has put a link under their picture on flickr directing me toward their blog.  You can’t make it hard for people to find you!
As mentioned before, drama tuns me off…gripey whiney drama in particular.  I want to see “real” people but I don’t want to surround myself in negativity.  So it’s not that a person needs to be spurting out sunshine and rainbows all the time (that can be equally annoying), but I don’t follow regular “complainers”.  
                                             image from Cut to Pieces

5.  What types of posts are most popular on your blog and what about those posts is it that make them such?

Boy if you get the answer to this question then let me know!  I’ve always been surprised by what topic will strike a chord with my readers and what doesn’t get a lot of response.  I do think that it is key to engage your readers in order to get responses.  So I always reply to everyone that I can who comments on my blog…some people don’t give you email access, so there isn’t much you can do unless you want to comment publicly on your own blog in response.
Still, to be fair, I would say that my most popular posts have been about my mini quilts and the stories that go with them.  That and really great giveaways.;)  But the minis are often made for someone who’s identity I have not revealed and the story is not given until the end…so there is some anticipation I think to learn about the piece.
6.  As part of the advice series, we will be putting together a checklist for new quilting bloggers including items to help us look at our blogs objectively in terms of the look of our blogs, the photos, the content, the writing, etc. – any tips for what you think we should include on the checklist?
A clean, crisp look is most appealing to me…but that is very subjective.  There are lots of different blog styles out there.  Just make sure that your blog is easy to navigate.  
You may have noticed (even with this) that I tend to be a little long winded…some bloggers will give you five sentences and call it a day.  And it works.  That rarely works for me.  It’s just not how I communicate online.  So again, the writing style is pretty subjective too.  I’m not a ton of help here!  Sorry!
7.  Thinking ahead:  (a) how and when should new bloggers solicit sponsors and (2) how and when should new bloggers seek out ways to be published.
a)Well gathering sponsors for a blog is a very personal decision and frankly a fair amount of pressure.  I don’t find that it pays me enough for the pressure and have considered chucking it all…but I still end up blogging, so I guess we’re all good.
I did ask a couple of people to sponsor my blog and was asked by another to be a sponsor all around the same time.  Some people turned me down.  It WILL happen.  One thing I learned is that a lot of companies budget their advertising for the year…so you can ask them now, but expect them to not be free to do that until the new year.  In fact, you might even suggest that yourself.  You may get someone who is willing to branch out later but doesn’t have the time to think about that right now.  
                  image from Cut to Pieces

Also, you may find that asking someone to do a sponsored giveaway is a good alternative for both of you.  They might decide that they get a lot of traffic through your blog and you may get new readers through having a sponsored giveaway.  Plus it is a one time deal…you can find if you are a good fit for each other.

b) If you want to get published then contact publishers!  They are always looking for new work and ideas…but beware…it’s not uncommon in this current industry to not be paid for certain publications.  But it gets you out there and gives you some credibility.  Most magazines will pay you for your work but it’s a wait to see if you’ve been accepted.  Books are a little rarer to be published in because unless you are doing your own, then it is a compilation.  And that means that it takes many hands to make one book.  Which means it takes more time.  It’s typically a year and a half to two years for book publications to come out from the initial invitation…that’s a long time to wait if you are doing this to tell people about it.  Because you can never talk about publications that early. 😉
Good luck everyone!  And thank you for having me!
May we all accomplish even one dream of ours.

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