A version of this post first appeared at One Night Stanzas in September 2008.
I recently met a writer who was super, super keen to get people reading his work, and wanted my advice. One of the first things I said was, “do you have a blog?” He looked horrified at the very thought! However, I was keen to persuade him. I’ve been writing at One Night Stanzas for nearly five years now, and this blog has brought me publication opportunities, paid work, connections to cool people and all sorts of other amazing stuff. However, I know that if you’re coming to blogging for the first time, it can seem a bit like handing copies of your secret diary out for everyone in the world to read. Sound about right? If so, I wrote this for you!
- If you choose to, you can make your blog visible to everyone on the web. That means a potential audience of hundreds of millions of people - probably more readers can you could ever get publishing in more traditional ways.
- Because so many poets already have blogs, signing up for a blog gives you access to a giant online community, to which you can quickly and easily get connected. You can link to and write about other poets’ blogs and get links to yours in return, thus directing readers back and forth.
- Having your own blog means you don’t have to rely on social networking sites or subscriptions to display your work online. You also have full control over your content, layout, whether you run ads, etc.
- If you have a blog, you can give the address to anyone who’s interested in seeing your work… without having to give them print outs, write out emails or mile-long URLs, or direct them to third-party sites.
- Putting your name to a poetry blog means that people can Google you and find your poetry with just a click.
- Regardless of what some people may say, blogging is a form of self-publishing and can make a good addition to your literary CV.
- If you want to, you can make money (usually only a little) by posting ads on your blog.
- You don’t just have to post your own poetry on your blog - you can use it to promote other sites and fellow poets that you like, or tell people what you’ve been reading and what you thought of it.
- You can use a blog to provide information on where your poems have been accepted for publication, where and when you’re doing a reading, or which poetic events you’re thinking of attending.
- Some poets have even turned their blogs into fully-fledged e-zines!
- A lot of new bloggers worry that by putting your work on a public blog, they’re laying yourself open to plagiarism. The risks are small, but they are there… even if you make your blog visible only to friends or subscribers.
- Blogging is essentially like writing a journal, and journalling is generally a very personal thing. Bear in mind that, if you put your deepest secrets and most radical thoughts onto your blog, people WILL be able to read them. If it’s on the web, it’s practically public in every way!
- Blogs are usually open for comments, and that means that some people are bound to disagree with you. There’s a common misconception that it’s OK to be rude to other internet users (especially if they’re trolling you) because you’ll never meet them and it’s fairly harmless. However, you never know who’s reading your snarky responses or watching an ongoing fight between you and an anonymous commenter (the same goes for YOUR comments on other blogs, too). A potential new boss or a magazine editor might well change their mind about you even based on something as trivial as this - so tread carefully!
- You have to be careful what you say in your blog posts, too. When it comes to putting up your poetry, you should maybe avoid things like “if you don’t like this poem then f**k you”, and take a more “I appreciate comments but please try to be constructive” approach.
- Once you start a blog, it may be forever. If you don’t want people to read your adolescent scribblings 10 years down the line, then make sure that your blog provider offers you a get-out option, and that you know how to get rid of your content should you need to.
- The same principle applies in a more general way, too - as I said before, you don’t know who’s reading, or how long their memory is. Just about everyone knows how to use the Print Screen function!
DOs and DON’Ts
- DO sign up with a reputable blog-provider and, if you’re going to be posting your work, read up on their copyright policies. Do they claim the copyright of anything you put in your posts? DO shop around.
- DON’T part with any cash to set up your blog. You can definitely find a good blog-provider who’ll host you for free. Anyone who asks for money is scamming you!
- DO look around at the blogs of other poets and writers to get an idea of how other people run their blogs.
- DO ask folk for their advice on finding your audience, writing content etc. DON’T feel obliged to act on it if you don’t want to, though. Your blog should be as much your personal creation as your poems are.
- DO be prepared for the fact that, once you put your blog “out there,” anyone can see it and comment on it. Even if you have closed comments, there’s nothing to stop people from writing their own blog post about you. Responses to your blog may not always be positive, so DO make sure you have a thick skin and a whole load of patience before you take the plunge.
- DO bear in mind that many people get bored of their blogs after a while and just let them fall by the wayside. If this happens, DON’T leave your poems posted on your disused blog - people may think that makes it OK to nick them. You might also be the victim of spam attacks if you leave your blog unattended for too long.
- DON’T feel pressured into putting ads on your blog unless you really want them there. Yes, they make you money, but you can’t always control their content, or know where they lead to when clicked.
- DON’T be afraid to tell other people about your blog. Blogging is all about connecting to other people and sharing your thoughts and ideas! However, DON’T feel obliged to link to someone else’s blog or site just because they’ve linked to yours.
- DO include your blog in your literary CV, if you feel it’s relevant.
- DON’T feature other people’s work on your site unless you have their permission.
Final note: I love blogs. I could probably spend my whole life reading blogs, geeking out on Tumblr, and tweeting cool stuff I’ve found… if, you know, I didn’t eventually get motion sickness from too much screen time, or have to pay rent. If you do decide that blogging is for you, I can highly recommend Wordpress. I’ve written in a ton of Wordpress blogs — the lovely One Night Stanzas of course, but also Bookworm Tutors, Girlpoems, Shore Poets, The Peripatetic Studio and others — and I always find it the cleanest and most user-friendly platform.
Budding writer? Creative person in need of a fun job? Check out the various resources and services at Bookworm Tutors. Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!