This article first appeared in issue 1 of Publishing Talk Magazine.
Want to start a book blog? Get up and running in minutes with WordPress.
WordPress is the blogging software I always recommend. It is flexible, extendible, easy to use – and free. But there is more to it than writing a personal online journal. You can use it to build a website, promote your books – and build a community. Here are 10 ways to make the most of it:
- Create a website. Don’t want to start blogging yet? You still need a website, even if it is a simple one-page site with your contact details. WordPress is the easiest way to start a website with no technical knowledge.
- Start blogging in minutes. Use http://wordpress.com to get your blog up and running in half an hour. This is hosted on the WordPress servers – so you don’t even need your own domain name or server space. If you do have these, you can use http://wordpress.org to download the software and upload it yourself.
- Choose a great design. WordPress comes with many built-in ‘themes’ or designs that you can choose. If you want more control over the look and feel, use http://wordpress.org to customize the code or install a ‘premium’ WordPress theme.
- Use widgets and plugins. Extend the functionality of your blog with free widgets and plugins. Widgets are for everyone and come built in. They add functions to the sidebar of your blog, such as your latest tweets. Plugins are only available to WordPress.org users, and add more complex functions such as contact forms.
- Add contributors. You don’t have to do it all yourself. WordPress is set up for multi-author blogging, and you can add people with different permissions levels.
- Write regularly. You don’t have to write a new blog post every day. Aim for once a week if you can – but more regularly than that when your blog is new and you are trying to build awareness and traffic. Ideally, write some posts in advance and schedule them to publish in the future.
- Let people have their say. Social media is social – involve your readers, and let them comment on your blog posts. However, you should moderate comments to weed out spam, abuse and anything off-topic. People disagreeing with you is fine, and adds to the debate; blatant abuse is not.
- Build a platform. I always advise creative writing students not to wait until they have a book to promote – start blogging now! This is how I, and lots of other authors, first got a book deal. Today agents and publishers want to see that you already have an audience.
- Promote your blog. Once you have a blog, don’t rely on people finding you via search engines alone. Use Twitter and Facebook to get the word out to your online community. Use Twitterfeed to share your latest blog posts automatically to social networks as you publish them.
- Build a community. Blogs are great for building community, especially if you build up a following on Twitter and Facebook. If you want to take things a step further and turn your blog into a social network, use BuddyPress.
Use your blog to flex your writing muscles, connect with new friends and post about your passions. Above all, enjoy it – blogging should be fun!
Jon Reed’s next blogging workshop takes place in London on Thursday 15th December, 2016