Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bloggers' Panel

Could it be more awkward to record a panel when... WE... were the panel? hehe.

We're still learning about blogging, but it was great to share our knowledge thus far with the conference-goers, who asked awesome questions!

Thanks to the wonderful Joanne of My Brain on Books for taking the notes as we jabbered on about blogging!
Action shot of us jabbering on.

How did you get started?
We met in a children's writing workshop course in college, and our critiques worked so well for one another that we decided to continue meeting after the class ended! It's been over two years since.
For the blog, we got the idea to share our experiences as aspiring writers (reading, writing, navigating the industry, and the rest of life) at the 2009 Pocono Retreat -- so that others can come along on our journey and add their experiences to the mix!

Can you describe your physical webspace?
Alright, this answer's a bit more obvious to you guys, because you're um.... on the site. But we operate through and decided on a 3-column layout (code from The Cutest Blog on the Block) because the two-column layout seemed too cluttered on the side.
On the left side, we keep links to our most popular posts/post categories and post archives for our readers' easy accessibility. On the right side, we keep contact information and our follower boxes. Simple!

What content do you have?
Our main features are character, plot, and topic studies (i.e. Disney character studies, parents in YA, religion in YA); recaps of conferences and book signings; book reviews and co-reviews (two-person conversational reviews); author interviews and guest posts; Vampire Diaries episode spoof recaps; and general posts with writing advice and about our writing journeys.

How many hits have you received since you've been blogging and during this conference?
Well, our page views have doubled for the live blogging days! Yay!
There are a few ways to gauge your readership with blogs. We use a basic stat counter at the bottom of our main page that logs page views (and tells us which countries our readers are from!), but for more detail we use Google Analytics, a free service that tracks EVERYTHING about your site -- readership, traffic, length of site stay, most popular posts -- EVERYTHING. And it's free! Also, the easiest way to gauge readership is by checking out followers. In less than a year, we jumped about 500 followers, which is SO exciting. We recently added the ability for people to follow us via Facebook, so we're building that element. Lastly, people can read us via an RSS/email feed.

How often do you post? Do you go on daily? How do you stay consistent, keep the content going?
Because there are four of us, we use a shared (and free!) Google Calendar to note who's posting when so we don't overlap or have a gap. It's semi-planned but also spontaneous. We basically try to post at least four times/week and try not to go more than two days without a post. Some posts take two hours to write, others take five minutes, so we balance the content as much as possible. We all contribute, but some of us do more than others, which is fine as long as we have frequent quality content!
* Note: We didn't mention this, but it's great that you can schedule posts to publish in the future. So if you want to write your posts for a week in one day, you can!

Are you getting responses that you have to respond to?
We get up to 30 comments on a really popular post, but we could have 300 page views for a day but only 4 comments. Which we understand, because we read a ton of blogs ourselves but don't have time to post a comment on each. We do respond to each comment, which continues the conversation of the post. It's intriguing to see which posts generate the most enthusiastic responses -- some of them are ones that took a lot of time to write, like "Rounding the Bases" in YA and a Hunger Games plot study, but others took five minutes, like I Now Pronounce Thee...Incorrectly and 2009: Year of the Twilight Babies.
* Note: Didn't mention this, but it's helpful to encourage a response by posting a specific question for your readers to answer. We love feedback!

Do you have any advertising on the site? Do you get income from it?
We have the option to include Google ads, but we choose not to, so we get no income from the blog. Not to be cheesy, but the "income" for us is getting the occasional ARC, or getting a link from Laurie Halse Anderson after she met us, or getting a link from Publishers Weekly -- anything that increases the reach of our blog.

If you had to honestly appraise, do you spend more time on the blog than writing?
We all spend more time on our writing, but it can be tough to maintain the balance and not get too sucked in to blogging. Basically, you need to know your limits. Blogging is still writing, just like keeping a journal, and it can increase your overall writing productivity because it keeps your mind in that writing space.
A lot of established bloggers will announce a short hiatus of a week or two when life overwhelms, and readers understand that it's not a job, it's what you do for no money in your "spare" time.
Also, the time you spend blogging isn't a waste of time -- it's an investment in your career. And it's a nice change of pace from writing novels because you have instant gratification with comments, as opposed to working for two years on something that may never get published!

How personal do you get with your posts?
You don't want to make yourself vulnerable. There's a fine line between not being a robot and keeping your privacy. If we post something personal about our lives, we keep it relatively surface and link it back to writing. We want our readers to feel like they know us without oversharing, and while staying professional.
Sample posts: Janine's writing space, Sara's triathalon, Donna's househunting, Frankie's... entire personal blog.

When you do book reviews, how do you handle negative opinions of books?
Our reviews are supportive. We don't review books we don't like -- which is fine, because we're not a book blogging site. And we'd never ever lie in a review, but if there's an element of a book that we recommend that we're not fans of, we just focus on the elements that we loved. No book is perfect, but if we find it worth reading, we'll happily endorse it!

How do you use the blog to do research on teens for your own book? Or to market yourself to teens?
We don't actively try to do research on teens via the blog, but we learn a lot from our teen commenters in their responses to our posts. We haven't quite left the teen mentality!
For marketing ourselves to teens -- Any blog whose purpose is purely marketing won't be successful. You need to offer your audience something worthwhile. Technically, our audience is writers, with a more specific focus toward aspiring writers of children's books. But if you look at our followers, they're writers and non-writers of all ages -- teens, teachers, librarians, book bloggers, YA readers, authors, etc. Any and every connection you make to people on the blogosphere is useful, whether or not they're the target audience of what you're writing. We just aim to build our community of FNC-ers!

Lastly, someone asked about the blogs we found most useful... and we're going to concoct a list when we get home for you so that it's as complete as possible. So stay tuned for that!

[Update from the future: LINK to epic list of recommended blogs.]

Hopefully you found our answers helpful, and feel free to ask more questions in the comments or add your input and knowledge to the mix!


  1. I am loving your recap posts! I hope my blog will be on your useful list :)

  2. Wow, Donna. That was waaaay more than I wrote down. You've got a fantastic memory.

    Just wanted to congratulate you all. You did a great job. And you looked and sounded very professional.


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