By Margo L. Dill
Alice Pope writes an interesting and informative blog for children’s writers called Alice’s CWIM Blog. The purpose of the blog is made quite clear in its subtitle, “Not-quite-daily news and musings from the editor of Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.” Alice is graciously sharing some insight into her blog and the blogging world with Prairie Wind readers. Read on for an inspiring interview.
MARGO: Alice, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us about your blog and blogging. So, why did you decide to start a blog about children’s writing?
ALICE: Since CWIM only comes out once a year, I started my blog (http://cwim.blogspot.com) so I’d have a way to communicate with my readers year round. I decided to kick it off by reporting on my trip to the 2006 SCBWI Los Angeles conference (which turned out to be a good way to start).
MARGO: The SCBWI Los Angeles conference is such a great conference. I can see why that would have been a great way to introduce your blog to the cyber world. Can you explain to us what the purpose of your blog is?
ALICE: I want to offer posts that are of interest to children’s writers such as publishing news, interviews with industry professionals, or conference reports. I also want to help promote writers who are blogging (as in “Bloggers of the Week”) and direct people to items of interest on-line on writers’ blogs or sites. So, all of you out there: if there’s something you’d like my readers to know about, contact me. I had a “Debut Author of the Month” feature for a while, which I’m thinking of reviving. (What do you all think? Should I bring that back?)
MARGO: Just by your answer to the question above, it is easy to see that you really have your readers in mind. What a great service you provide by customizing your blog to help your readers and children’s writers. What are some posts you have written recently that have been popular with your blog visitors?
ALICE: Anytime I interview an editor or agent, I get a lot of traffic. My “Blogger of the Week” posts every Friday are also popular. But you never know—one day I talked about roasting Brussels sprouts, and my hits spiked.
Lately, I’ve been announcing new posts on Facebook and Twitter; and in general, my traffic has gone up. Traffic has also improved since I pledged to post every weekday. I decided to do this last September after attending the Portland KidLit Bloggers Conference (http://www.leewind.org/). I got a lot of great tips for maintaining a better blog.
MARGO: It’s so funny when odd posts, such as your Brussels sprouts one, get a lot of traffic. That’s the mystery of the blogging world. Thanks for sharing the link with us about the blogger’s conference. I’ve heard those are fun and informative. What advice would you give to a children’s writer who is starting a blog?
ALICE: Here are a few blog tips I offered at a recent webinar on promoting yourself online:
- Post daily and offer quality content. Successful bloggers consistently offer readers content that’s useful, interesting, insightful, newsy, etc. If you can’t post every day, update on a regular schedule, so readers know when to expect new material. If you’re not going to post for a time (during a vacation for example), let your readers know so they don’t think you’ve abandoned them.
- Your posts should offer your own voice and personality. A blog is personal. Let readers get to know you. If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re introspective, be introspective. If you’re opinionated, offer opinions.
- Become an active participant in the blogging community. First, offer link lists and blogrolls, listing other blogs and sites your readers would find interesting or helpful. It’s unlikely you’ll end up on someone’s blogroll if they aren’t on yours. Second, leave comments on other blogs! Try to go beyond “great post.” Say something thoughtful if you can. Be sure to comment under your blog name, so readers can link back to you, and the blog author knows who you are. (I notice my regular commenters, and some of them have been featured at Bloggers of the Week).
- Watch out for typos and errors. Proofread and spell check your posts. Occasional mistakes happen, and that’s okay. But if you are continually sloppy when it comes to grammar and spelling, you’re likely to lose some of your audience of writers or book lovers.
- Consider your design. Your blog doesn’t need to have a fancy or flashy design, but it needs to look professional, be well-organized, and be easy to read. Blogger and WordPress templates are easily customizable—you can change fonts and color scheme, shuffle sidebars, use an individualized header, and include other graphics with minimal effort.
- Use good keywords. These will draw readers to your blog via search engines.
- Promote your blog. At the very least, include your blog address in your email signature. Tell your writers friends and your family about it. Feed announcements of new blog posts into your Twitter account and your Facebook status update.
- Be patient. You won’t have 500 blog followers and thousands of readers overnight—your blog traffic will build over time. Keep posting, linking, commenting, and promoting. Use a stat counter to chart your progress, noting which topics or types of posts attract the most readers. (I use StatCounter, http://www.statcounter.com. It is free and easy to install and use.)
MARGO: What great tips! Thanks for sharing these with us. So, with all this good advice and how-to information, when it comes to blogging, how can a children’s writer use her blog to market herself and her work?
ALICE: If you’re not yet published, maintaining a blog is a great way to build the beginnings of a platform. If you don’t have a book out yet, you could blog on the process; you could review books for young readers; you could stick to a niche (like humor as the Three Silly Chicks do at http://threesillychicks.blogspot.com/, or GLBTQ like Lee Wind at http://www.leewind.org/) ; or you could blog with a partner or small group (like YA Fresh at http://yafresh.blogspot.com/, or the Longstockings at http://thelongstockings.blogspot.com/). Some bloggers offer regular interviews with publishing folks. Some become stops for blog tours. Creating a following will only be helpful once you are published.
MARGO: That’s so true. Creating an audience before a book even comes out can only help you, and what a fun way to start your fan base—with a blog. So, before we say good-bye to you, what are some of the future plans for your blog, Alice’s CWIM Blog?
ALICE: After mentioning it above, I decided I will resurrect my “Debut Author of the Month” feature. And I’ll once again be blogging the LA SCBWI conference, but this year I’ll be leading SCBWI TEAM BLOG (team members are Jolie Stekly http://cuppajolie.blogspot.com/, Jaime Temairik http://www.cocoastomp.blogspot.com/, Paula Yoo http://www.paulayoo.com/blog/2, Suzanne Young http://www.suzanne-young.blogspot.com/, and Lee Wind http://www.leewind.org/), but we’ll be live blogging the event on an official SCBWI conference blog. Prior to the conference, however, we will all be offering some conference-related posts (interviews and scoops) to generate some excitement. (I’m already very excited!)
MARGO: I am also looking forward to the posts about the conference. The LA SCBWI conference is a great experience; and if you can’t go this year, what a great way to experience it with SCBWI TEAM BLOG! Thank you so much, Alice, for sharing all this information with Prairie Wind readers.
Check out Margo Dill’s blog, Read These Books and Use Them (http://margodill.com/blog/), for ideas on how to use children’s and young adult books in the classroom and at home. This blog offers teaching ideas and discussion starters with each book for your children, teenagers, or students.