Simon’s Dos and Don’ts of Blogging

Quite often new bloggers email me and ask if I have any tips about blogging – I imagine quite a few of you have received similar emails, or questions in person – and usually I just do my best to encourage, and mention the first two of the points below (being the most important ones).  But today I thought I might extend my tips a bit… let me know what yours are!  (Oh, and the picture isn’t relevant…)

DO



Do… participate in community – by reading other people’s posts and commenting, having a blog list on your blog (so important!), and by answering comments when you can.  Nothing puts me off more than a selfish blogger, and nothing makes me cheerier than when seeing bloggers celebrate the community we all love.

Do… post regularly – but not necessarily frequently. Just so long as people know when they can expect new posts – be that everyday, every week, every month…

Do… have pictures – it just helps!

Do… acknowledge other people’s suggestions – I don’t much care if you say whether or not the book you’re writing about came as a review copy (although it seems polite to mention it) but I do like it when people explain why they’re reading that particular book – especially if it’s because they saw it featured on someone else’s blog. Again, yay community!

Do… have fun – whether you have fun writing in-depth reviews everyday, or pictures of kittens.


DON’T



Don’t… second-guess yourself too much – if you’re always checking that people are enjoying your style or your type of posts, chances are you’re not enjoying the whole process.  Relax, it’s supposed to be fun!

Don’t… be too minimalist – I know this is a reaction to those blogs which had thousands of links in the sidebars and widgets everywhere… wait, this is sounding like my blog… but I think it’s possible for the ethos of white space to go too far. If you end up with just an inch of text in an ocean of white space, then not only does it look like nobody’s home, it also looks like every other white-space blog out there!

Don’t… feel obligations – I’ve found that bloggers tend to get to the 18 month mark, and feel weighed down by blogging obligations. Blobligations? When I got to that stage, I was anxious about reading all the books I was sent, and posting everyday, and finally I decided just to relax. I wanted Stuck-in-a-Book to reflect my reading tastes – which isn’t an exclusive diet of modern novels, however kind it is of publishers to send them – so I started reading what I wanted to read, and blogging what I wanted to blog.  Result: happiness!  I may have lost some readers who wanted something else, but the ones I’ve got are here because (presumably!) they want to read what I want to write.  Thank you!

Don’t… pay any attention to this if you don’t want to!  There aren’t any hard and fast rules, and you might disagree with all of mine.  That’s absolutely fine :)

Over to you…

Do you have any blogging tips for new bloggers – or experienced bloggers, come to that – which are different from mine?

42 thoughts on “Simon’s Dos and Don’ts of Blogging

  • May 8, 2013 at 11:18 pm
    Permalink

    I would just add that if you want people to find and read more your content, don't be afraid of a *bit* of self promoting – use appropriate tags, tweet out a link of your posts (again with appropriate hashtags), etc.

    And get really comfortable with hyperlinks! Links to sources, links inspiration, links links links! Hit Ctrl+k and start hyperlinking!

    Definitely agree about community though – whether it's a community of 5 or 500, it's the reason to blog, so embrace it :)

    Reply
    • May 11, 2013 at 9:25 pm
      Permalink

      Absolutely! I think there probably is a line, but that a lot of people don't even come close to approaching it. I never mind if people put links to their own blogs in my comments, especially if they're new bloggers, because it seems a perfectly legitimate way to try and find new readers!

      Reply
  • May 9, 2013 at 2:08 am
    Permalink

    I always enjoy your blog, Simon. Your analysis of your process reminds me of why I do! And it gives me a teeny nudge to think that I might try the venture myself

    Reply
    • May 11, 2013 at 9:26 pm
      Permalink

      Thank you Ana – and I would definitely recommend starting blogging! It's great fun :)

      Reply
  • May 9, 2013 at 3:01 am
    Permalink

    Great tips, Simon; I agree with every single one. For me, the two most important keys to being a happy blogger are to not feel obligated to be or behave any certain way and to participate fully in the blogging community. Once I figured those two things out, all my angst disappeared (though there wasn't all that much to begin with).

    Reply
    • May 11, 2013 at 9:26 pm
      Permalink

      Well said! So many of us struggle with the feeling of obligation, to some extent at least, and learning to conquer it is very freeing :)

      Reply
  • May 9, 2013 at 5:20 am
    Permalink

    I agree too, Simon. I think the most important things for me are to relax, to do your own thing and not feel all those 'blobligations'!

    I do like the fact that you write 'different from'. So many people these days seem to say/write 'different to' and to me that's as bad as using 'its' when it should be'it's'. :)

    Reply
    • May 11, 2013 at 9:27 pm
      Permalink

      I think it is a case of American vs. British English, where British is slipping into American! The one which really gets me is how common it is now to pronounce privacy as pri-vacy, rather than priv-acy. Not from my lips!

      Reply
  • May 9, 2013 at 6:22 am
    Permalink

    I also agree completely, a blog should reflect your taste and your personality and there are not rights or wrongs in that. Don't copy others just because you think this will make more readers come over to you.
    Be honest, in every respect.
    If you liked a book, say you like it and why, and if you did not like a book, also be honest about that. And don't be personal about the writer, just about the book!

    (and I always enjoy your blog, Simon. I don't really read the same kind of books, but I really enjoy you telling about them!)

    Kind regards,

    Reply
    • May 11, 2013 at 9:28 pm
      Permalink

      That's always my favourite compliment, when people who don't necessarily share my taste still like to read my blog. Thank you, Bettina!

      Reply
  • May 9, 2013 at 2:43 pm
    Permalink

    Excellent advice, Simon, and I agree that it's important to have lists of other blogs (I keep mine short in hopes people will really go to some of them) and an ongoing list of books read and much else.

    I would add, don't worry about your number of visitors. Post it and they will come . . .

    Reply
    • May 11, 2013 at 9:29 pm
      Permalink

      I also try to keep my list short, so that people will visit them – but also so that *I* will visit them! It is often practical for my searching, as well as advertising others.

      Reply
  • May 9, 2013 at 4:23 pm
    Permalink

    I think that's really good advice. The one about posting regularly seems to be going out to me, though. When I'm busy, I usually find myself neglecting my blog even though I enjoy blogging a lot.
    Have a good evening!
    Mareike

    Reply
    • May 11, 2013 at 9:30 pm
      Permalink

      But you can do regularly instead of frequently :) Even once a year is regular!

      Reply
    • May 11, 2013 at 9:30 pm
      Permalink

      I'll do my best to get it into the OED ;)
      And thanks for the mention!

      Reply
  • May 9, 2013 at 5:10 pm
    Permalink

    Such a good post, and so helpful to new bloggers. Blogging is really just like life, isn't it. Some people are going to be wildly popular and others are going to be well-loved by fewer people.

    Reply
    • May 11, 2013 at 9:33 pm
      Permalink

      Thanks Nan! I'll be able to send this link instead when people ask for my advice :)

      The nice thing about the blogosphere is that nobody is really unpopular, they're just loved by a select group!

      Reply
  • May 9, 2013 at 5:17 pm
    Permalink

    Definitely agree Simon – I'm only a recent blogger but I started more for myself really, just to be able to express what I think about books. I don't imagine I'll ever have huge amounts of readers, but I enjoy writing what I write so as long as a few people are enjoying reading it, that's enough!

    Reply
    • May 11, 2013 at 9:33 pm
      Permalink

      I find it hard to believe that you're a recent blogger, Karen, as I can't imagine the blogosphere without you!

      Reply
  • May 9, 2013 at 8:46 pm
    Permalink

    Excellent advice Simon, the only thing I could think to add would be to remember that people will read what you write so think carefully if you're talking about work or the people in your life.

    Reply
    • May 11, 2013 at 9:34 pm
      Permalink

      What good advice! I have leant it to my chagrin a couple of times… and also noted that, if I link to other people's posts which I have commented on, those comments might also be read by people I know!

      Reply
  • May 10, 2013 at 1:22 am
    Permalink

    Oh, I thought "different to" was English and "different from" was American! Is "different to" considered bad English-English, then? I hadn't realised/realized that!

    Enjoyed your common sense, lighthearted views on blogging. You inadvertently explained to me the difference between the mainly personal and more widely popular blogs. Community. I've never been too interested in community, mostly in myself, and that explains my choice of style and method in blogging. :-) Good to know.

    Reply
    • May 11, 2013 at 9:35 pm
      Permalink

      I think it's considered changing English, rather than necessarily bad. And since working at OUP, I've discovered that -ize is more British than I'd reali[s/z]ed!

      Reply
  • May 10, 2013 at 1:47 am
    Permalink

    I agree, excellent points! I like the last of your "Do" section, about having fun, because it does seem like people lose enthusiasm over the blobligations (a term I intend to steal – with proper community-building attribution of course :) I'd add too that there will be days when it seems like no one is reading or interested – or at least commenting – but so be prepared for that, and don't get discouraged.

    Reply
    • May 11, 2013 at 9:36 pm
      Permalink

      Thanks Lisa May :)
      It sounds glib, but there really isn't much point if it isn't fun – which doesn't mean it isn't a bit of graft sometimes, but ultimately it has to be rewarding graft.

      And not getting discouraged is hard, isn't it – when one has put a lot of effort into a post which doesn't get many comments etc. Even with the 'fun' priority, I don't think I'd be able to continue blogging without an audience.

      Reply
  • May 10, 2013 at 7:11 am
    Permalink

    Very sage advice, Simon. I wouldn't consider myself a blogger with enough wisdom or experience on the subject to give advice, but I'd add the general suggestion that one shouldn't worry about the number of followers one has, etc. For me, I'm much happier being part of a small blogging community. Quantity doesn't always signify quality.

    Reply
    • May 11, 2013 at 9:37 pm
      Permalink

      Absolutely! And I quite like that nobody ever really knows how many people are reading others' blogs…

      Reply
  • May 10, 2013 at 7:45 am
    Permalink

    Couldn't agree more – with everything you and the other commenters have said, especially about engaging with the community and having fun.

    Reply
    • May 11, 2013 at 9:37 pm
      Permalink

      Lovely, thanks Annabel! Meeting bloggers in real life is, of course, another delightful way of engaging with community :)

      Reply
  • May 10, 2013 at 3:21 pm
    Permalink

    I loved this post, Simon. Especially the "Don'ts" because too often we focus on what we must "Do". The "obligations" part is especially important. Most of us don't do this for a living, it's more for community and fun. If it becomes an obligation then it's no longer fun!

    Reply
    • May 11, 2013 at 9:41 pm
      Permalink

      Thanks, Laura! I think it's so important to remember this main point – especially at that tricky 18 month mark!

      Reply
  • May 11, 2013 at 12:52 pm
    Permalink

    Brilliant Dos and Don'ts, Simon. The only thing I would add is Don't Forget that blogging is a public activity … it's easy to forget when you're sitting in front of a computer in a room on your own, at least when you're beginning and before you have any followers. But anyone can read a blog anywhere and I still think about that when I'm rereading, before I post.

    And I especially agree with the regularity thing (as opposed to the frequent thing) … I post on the 14th of every month now because posting more frequently interrupts my writing.

    Reply
    • May 11, 2013 at 9:41 pm
      Permalink

      Lovely to hear from you Angela! It is easy to forget how public it is – and that the archives never disappear…

      Reply
  • May 12, 2013 at 4:18 pm
    Permalink

    Many thanks for your tips, Simon. Much appreciated as I've just put my toe in the blogging water. Definitely having fun but a little self-conscious about the white space issue. Just chosen a rather fetching greeny blue background to make up for it!

    Reply
    • May 16, 2013 at 5:45 pm
      Permalink

      Don't forget the final rule, that you can ignore everything I say ;)
      Welcome to the blogosphere, Susan!

      Reply
  • May 14, 2013 at 12:18 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks for offering these thoughtful tips and advice, it's always good to get the thougts of more experienced bloggers. I was glad to read what you had to say about white space too. I like some blogs that are quite minimalist and I have reduced what was on mine a bit but I do still like to have quite a few things in the sidebars and am glad you do too!

    Reply
    • May 16, 2013 at 5:46 pm
      Permalink

      Hurrah for stuff! I think it's nice to have lots of things to look at and direct people to – it's like houses, I'm put off by rooms that don't look lived-in (but would also, of course, stop short of being a hoarder!)

      Reply
  • May 14, 2013 at 10:11 pm
    Permalink

    good advice! I think all is pertinent. I do think the amount of personal tone or glimpses of personal life also keep people engaged..it makes the blogger who may be sitting anywhere in the world a more real person.

    Reply
    • May 16, 2013 at 5:46 pm
      Permalink

      Very true! That's one of the lovely things about blogs – and it tends to come across unconsciously, so far as I can tell, or at least naturally.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: