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Maintaining a Professional Blog

How important is it for writers to maintain a professional blog?

In the last post, most of us agreed that blogging probably won’t give us a huge readership before publication. Even though blogging can help establish a baseline, our largest readership will develop after publication.

So if most of us are blogging for encouragement, support, education, expression, building a web presence, and a hundred other various reasons, why would we need to worry about keeping our blogs professional?

I look at blogs as our cyber home-offices. The way we decorate them is often an expression of ourselves. From our backgrounds to our layouts—we often choose designs that represent ourselves and/or our writing. That’s all part of the fun of blogging.

Personal expression is good, but once we enter the realm of querying, professional expression must enter the equation too. In other words, once we begin to make contact with industry professionals—agents and editors—I think we need to make sure our cyber offices reflect this new step in our career.

Experience has taught me that agents and editors can pop onto our blogs for surprise visits. Not only has this happened to me, I know it’s happened to other writers in the querying phase. If our queries or sample chapters perk the interest of agents or editors, they may make a quick visit to our blogs to learn more about us.

Will we be prepared? And what are some ways we can make sure that our blogs are appealing to agents and editors? After all, why wouldn’t we want to make a good impression on them, as well as all of the readers who swing by on a daily basis?

Showcase ourselves and our books:

At the very basic, a professional blog should include the writer’s name and a profile picture. I’m surprised by the number of writer blogs I stumble upon that don’t mention the writer’s name but instead say something like, “Lovely Writer” with a picture of a heart or something like that. If we’re too afraid to put our name and picture “out there” then how will we cope when our books, our very souls, are released for all the world to see?

In addition, we may consider having links to more information about ourselves and our books. Blogger now has a gadget for tabs that open into separate pages (similar to a website). I’ve set mine up at the top of this blog. It’s a great place to showcase our author bio, current projects, completed books, etc. I would recommend making it as simple and clear as possible.

Keep our blogs tidy and easy to read:

The top page of our blog, the part that shows up first in a screen, should highlight the most important parts of our blog. We may only have a few seconds to make an impression, so we should carefully consider what things our readers see first. I would recommend again, an author picture and name, along with the aspects of our writing career that are most important to us.

Keep in mind that light type set against a dark background can be more difficult to read, along with certain fonts. Even if we really like something, we also need to start thinking “hook.” What will draw the attention and keep it of anyone who might stop by.

Just like we tidy our real homes, from time to time we need to evaluate our blogs and decide if we need to clean them up, or even do a home makeover. If we’re getting serious about publication, then we need to get our blogs ready. We never know who may stop by!

How’s your blog? Have you considered what impression your blog gives to your readers? And if an agent or editor stopped by, would you be ready for their visit?

54 comments:

  1. Great post Jody! It does seem that blog design makes a difference. I know for me if the font is light and the background dark, it's harder on my eyes to read. So I am not inclined to stay very long and read. Also, I have found that the length of posts also makes a difference. Some readers will not hang out and read a post that is REALLY long. So I have found it better to keep my posts shorter.

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  2. Very good points. I'm working on some changes for my blog, including the tabs you mentioned. I've also been surprised by how many people don't give their name.

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  3. This is exactly why I changed the title of my blog a while ago. When I first started blogging, I titled my blog (very tongue in cheek)...Brain Throw Up, because I honestly feel like my brain is filled with all these words and sometimes I wish my brain could throw up, which is cute and all...but hardly professional. As soon as I got more serious about querying and getting "out there", I changed to the much more professional, Katie Ganshert. :)

    Great post, Jody. I love the new bar up top. I'm totally going to set something like that up next week when I have more time (spring break!)

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  4. This is great advice, and I'm going to look at the "tabs" option today. I consider my blog an extension of my personality, and while I am serious about what I do, I have to stay true to myself, too. That's not to say I treat my blog as a dumping ground for all my random thoughts.

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  5. Great advice Jody! I will look at my blog and see what I should tidy up:)
    Thanks!

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  6. Well said! I'd add as well, that our blog "design" should reflect a wee bit of ourselves as well. Have you ever been to a blog for a writer who writes suspense/thriller and has a cutsie, girly blog? If we want it to represent us as a writer, I think it's good to set a tone for editors/readers too.

    I probably need to clean mine up a bit. (although my baby counter at the top is staying!!! *grin*) I'll just add it to my TTD list, :-)

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  7. I agree that we should have a professional air to our site. Most of us hope to be published one day, and our blogs should reflect that mindset.

    So far I'm pleased with my blog layout. My next step would be a professional blog styled by a computer expert linked to a styling website! Woohoo!

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  8. I'm so excited that blogspot has added that feature. I will be looking into it as soon as i have more time.

    And I couldn't agree with you more. We should always strive to be professional. If we don't take ourselves seriously, how can we expect others in the industry to?

    have an awesome Wednesday! I've enjoyed your posts this week!

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  9. Great comments/suggestions on maintaining a professional, educational and enjoyable blog. Yours is top notch and always a pleasure to visit!

    I won't read the blogs that are light, small print on dark background because these old eyes just can't make it out!

    I also won't read blogs that go on and on and on...!

    I do enjoy learning more about the blog author through shared personal experiences as well as writing journeys.

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  10. I agree, Jody. It's all great food for thought. Very important.

    And I didn't realize Blogger had gotten the new tab gadget. I'll be checking this out. Thanks!

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  11. Great points.

    I'm getting professional pictures taken in a few months (when we can swing it financially) for this very reason.

    And, yes...I'm ready for 'em. Send them on by. ;)

    You know me...what you see is really what you get.
    ~ Wendy

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  12. Great post! Been meaning to do some tidying for a while now. Thanks for the reminder!

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  13. This is the filter I think through constantly.

    Thanks for letting me know about the new page-link feature! I'll have to get on it.

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  14. You make a good point. I share my blog with my husband, which means he posts once a year. ;) But as I continue to submit my work, I need to develop a professional blog.

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  15. Ooo, I have had that surprise visit. Hee hee, imagine my surprise to see Donald Maass's name in my in-box after I blogged about his book. LOL! Well, my blog is plain vanilla. I'll have to check out the gadgets.

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  16. I love the idea of the blog being a sort of virtual home office, so true! I've tried to keep mine simply designed, with colors and a setup that are inviting. Professionalism is so important in all our endeavors, and with blogging being such a visible one, even more so. Great advice!

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  17. I had no idea that blogger had a tab function similar to websites. Thanks so much. And yes, I agree totally that our blogs need to look and be professional.
    karen

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  18. Great points. I had an agent stop by my blog, and he left a very nice comment and sent me a personal email. I definitely think it is of great importance to keep our blogs professional. I haven't been doing a great job of that these days, but I'm going to do a little 'office' cleaning here soon.

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  19. Wow, interesting things I'd never thought of! I do think we need to have a place that "showcases" our work (like a nice bookshelf!!)

    You continue to offer such valuable insight seasoned with dashes of humor and gritty reality!!!

    Patti

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  20. I'm looking forward to using the new page option from Blogger. I spent a lot of time thinking about the design of my blog pages before I launched them. Mostly I thought about how the reader would feel and the kind of experience I wanted the reader to have at my blog. Putting my picture up came later and I did it because I knew I should, not because I relished putting my face out there.

    For me, the passion is always about the written word and the conversation with others. That's what I get excited about. It's much more challenging for me to be proactive about marketing and PR and networking.

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  21. This is really helpful advice, Jody. I will definitely be checking out the tab gadget. What do you think about awards on the sidebar?

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  22. I really tried to take that into consideration in making mine. It feels like me, but I try to keep it professional.

    Thanks so much for this series, Jody!

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  23. Yes. I have. Great points here. I try to keep mine organized and highlight things unique to me.

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  24. Excellent post! I've been trying hard to find another background for my blog lately but can't seem to find one that suites me. AS soon as I can justify it (agent, book deal) I'll hire a pro. Looking forward to your new site!!! BTW, this one looks great too.

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  25. There is so much time that one can devote to learning about blog design and then actually doing it. I know there are so many more things I could do to my blog, but I tend to be more concerned more about the content and my networking activities. If feel like if I'm doing a writing blog it doesn't have to visually gimmicky. But on the other hand, it would be good for me to take advantage of the tabs, helpful widgets, and first impression. I have learned an awful lot since I started my blog, but my lack of technical knowledge still hinders me and there never seems to be enough time in the day to do every thing I need to do.
    Lee

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  26. Can't write. Need to go work on my blog. :-)

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  27. I agree. That first impression is important. It should be clean, clear, and easy to find additional information about the author.

    I use google sites for my static pages. It is easy to use and it’s free too. I believe the blog and the website should reflect the same design so people clicking through know they are still looking at the same site.

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  28. Oh and it is important to frequently review your static pages to keep them up to date and weed out errors.

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  29. Some really great words of wisdom about blogs. I'm constantly tweaking mine, trying to make it "perfect." I know there's no such thing, but it's a work in progress.

    I am proud of it, though, and I get a little thrill whenever someone tells me they've visited.

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  30. I removed my last name from blogyland (so much as it was possible) a few months in, not realizing I may pursue publication someday.

    Now I'm so completely used to seeing "Amy Jane" and/or "Untangling Tales" I harly recognize my last-name on-screen (does that sound stupid?)

    Really, it was a relief of sorts to do my middle name because my last is 10 letters, and always *looks* unbalanced next to such a short first name.

    Do you think name recognition is critical enough to go back and add "Helmericks" to the author name in all my posts?

    (It feels like "coming out of the closet.")

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  31. Shannon: I'm still up in the air about blog awards. I list mine on the lower part of my blog screen because I really want the people who value my blog to know I appreciate their warm thoughts! But sometimes it feels a little "prideful" to me! And a little cluttery! Once I get my blog redesigned to match my blog (in a couple of months), I'll let you know what the designers say/suggest to do with them!

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  32. Amy Jane: You're in a tough situation. Another blogging friend, Sherrinda, just renamed her blog and is only using her first name for the blog title because of the difficulty of the last name. I think that's probably okay. But I would probably list your full name under your profile picture. If you're planning to keep your name for your book, then I'd it seems logical to build your web presence around that name. But if you're planning a pen name, then why not build your presence around that? Just my 2 cents! :-)

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  33. Great post! I hope more people do "professionalize" their blogs. My blog is a combination of personal and professional musings, but I keep even the personal stuff professional. I make sure to edit and re-edit the posts, take care that the content is appropriate and relevant, etc. We all need to remember that everything lives on the Internet forever. Why wouldn't an agent/editor pay a visit to your blog if they were considering working with you? That is just de rigueur due diligence these days.

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  34. Appreciate the 2-cents. Online seems the only place to get specifics these days.

    DH insists on no pen names (His grandfather is published under the same family name) and I don't mind at all, I've just been going by Amy Jane so long that (for ex., on the blog) I feel like I'd have to be a 3-name author, and it sounds juvenile to me (Amy Jane Helmericks). Completely the wrong image for a YA author, which is my goal.

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  35. My blog feels a bit cluttered. I'd like to find out how to put all the awards on a single slide show gadget.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  36. Boy, I picked a good day to check in on you, girl!!!

    I need this. I hadn't realized that Blogger offered those tabs now and I think you're right about the light letters on dark background. When I get back into blogging, I've got some work to do for sure.

    Pray all is well with you, and I was so hoping to see your cover proudly displayed high up on the sidebar with a release date, instead I scrolled down. It is so beautiful and pure looking!!

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  37. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I'm surprised by the number of anonymous people out there too. I do think you hit on all the important points. Blogs need to be a mix of professional and personal. And yes, I'm ready for whoever stops by. The reader that freaks me out the most? My husband. True!

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  38. Thanks for answering my question, Jody. You are awesome! :)

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  39. Eek. I have thought about it but I'm not in "writer" mode yet. I figure once I get that publishing deal I'll hire someone to do a nice website including a blog look that matches...but right now it's all for fun. I have no idea if my agent even reads my blog. I hope it comes across as professional enough if she does!

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  40. Jody, always enjoy your tweets. Your suggestions on making your blog look professional is timely. I'm using Wordpress, which I like, but haven't figured out how to post a picture of me on the main page. Not sure the particular style I'm using supports that. Otherwise, I'm happy. I'm learning as I go.

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  41. I just discovered those pages the other day! Can't wait to add some to my blog and my blog website. *grin*
    I've thought alot about the look of my blog. It's pretty simple besides the background and I like it that way. But I'm not sure the background fits what I write...will have to think about that.

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  42. I'm thinking a reader to my will see a scatter woman, bouncing all over the place. Maybe I need to start a new one that I only use on days when I'm focused. Not sure when those days might be.

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  43. Good advice. I found the new pages link yesterday, brace yourself for a new look on mine soon. I vowed I would become more organised this year, it is working so far. Now I will work on my blog tidying. Oooer, I had better dust incase I get an agent visit soon...LOL

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  44. This is really great advice, Jody. Our blogs really are a reflection of ourselves and who wants a messy, unorganized author? I've also been kind of debating with myself over the merit of putting my name out there, being sort of paranoid that it's on the Internet for all to see... but I hope I did the right thing!

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  45. LOVE the Tabs idea - I'll have to check that out tonight. Good insights too. I never really thought about it ... but then I never really think of a lot of things. Which is why I have you. And people like you. And people like them. And so on. See. The whole world works together. (Yes, I've had a few cups of coffee today)

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  46. Thank you for this post! I love your blog. :)

    Anyways, just wanted to let you know that you received a Beautiful Blogger Award on my blog.

    God bless!

    Tessa

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  47. I scrolled down to see what I missed Wednesday. Wonderful. I am going to do the tab thing. Jody, God bless and thank you for taking the time to share with us. I am grateful.

    My blog does not have my name. It is Putting Pen To Paper. Think I need to change it?

    When an agent and or editor comes calling, I want to be ready. =)

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  48. Yes. I planned my blog style ahead of time. I looked at others that I like. I have a format and I like sticking to it for my own consistency. I could be clearer on when I will post.

    Thank you for pointing out that you need to state your real name and include a real pic of yourself. I think people are way too afraid. They've been made paranoid by internet scares. I realize that someone could find out anything they want about me in about 30 seconds on the 'net. We need to be cautious and smart in all areas of our lives, on-line and off, but not be cripled by fear.
    Thanks!

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  49. This is a great post. I've tweeted a link to it so others can see it. Really great advice that we all need to take to heart.

    I feel my own blog is professional and encompasses all the things you have pointed out here in this post.

    My blog is a "writers blog" and I have links to articles I have written for other sites such as eHow and a guest post I did for WD's Guide To Literary Agents. I offer links to pub news and agents blogs and always research every post I write. In addition to that I have an about me page and a contact me page and a link to a brief synopsis/hook for my (unpublished) novel.

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  50. Jody,

    I found your blog through Alan Rinzler's blog. Nice post. I'm guilty of not really putting a lot of effort into making my blog a "professional-looking" blog and I've been thinking a lot lately on how to improve it. Thanks for the tips.

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  51. Jody, the motto, "Be Prepared" resonates in your post. As a publisher actively seeking new manuscripts, and a radio host seeking new people to interview, I often stop by and visit blogs. Yours gets an A+ (Sorry, the former teacher in me comes out!)

    If you'd like to be interviewed on my Blog Talk Show for Authors, let me know! You are always welcome. http://www.WritingandPublishingRadio.com

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  52. Thanks for the tips, very helpful. I still need to take the time to figure out how to use the new page function on blogger. I have thought of changing the background and font color also. I'm always open to change(s)!

    www.a-pen-in-neverland.blogspot.com

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  53. Again, great advice, great blog. I really do love most of your posts, as they give me a lot of information or encouragement that I'm on the right (or wrong) track.

    I have a site for personal and a site just for my writing--though that's new and a bit of an experiment. We'll see how it works.

    Again, thanks for posting this.

    Elisa Michelle

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  54. Hi Elisa,

    Glad you've found some helpful posts! I love when that happens! I wish you all the best with your new site!

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