My Grand Plan began three years ago when I moved back to my hometown in Michigan and was born of necessity.
The job market in my little corner of Michigan is deplorable. The only full-time jobs are in fast food or at Walmart and the only work for an educated person is teaching, unless your education is in an area needed by the auto industry. Since my degree is in writing, substitute teaching is the only work available to me.
The writing is on the wall, it is time to stop being an artist and make writing my job. Okay. But how?
There is very little information out there about this. What little you do find usually wants to sell you something; blogging classes, website building and monetization packages, copywriting classes, self-publishing packages, marketing packages; the list goes on. The reason? No one really knows how to get there; each traveller must cut a new path.
Blogging is a good place to begin because it is a writer’s medium; ideas, writing, editing and proofreading are the heart of blogging and all the things a writer must practice!
Back when I had a full-time job in New York, I tried a few of the paid How-to blogging schemes and they all utilize the same scant information. The same information is available for free on Google’s Blogs of Note and Blogger Buzz. And on WordPress.com in their help files and Blogging University. It boils down to what I like to call The Big 5. I have listed them in order of importance:
- Be consistent.
- Be incredibly helpful to your readers.
- Connect with your audience and other bloggers.
- Create short, well-crafted blog posts.
- Include interesting images and media that enhance the subject.
Most successful blogs have all four. If you fail in one area, the success of the blog is curtailed. The exception to this is if you are famous before starting the blog or are a world-renown, recognize expert on the subject of the blog.
Where most fail is the first one, be consistent. A blog can be poorly written, contain no images and be all about the creators dreams and feelings and it will gain success if it is consistent.
Start a non-fiction blog
Why non-fiction? Informational blogs get far more hits than fiction blogs. You may not like that, but it is the truth. Most people do not want to read your writing, they want to read something that will make their lives better. Yes, you can argue your stories make people’s lives better, but it is a hard-sell. So, find something you like to write about that will improve the lives of humans.
Are you an expert in something other than writing? Is there something you like and would not mind learning more about?
Take a good long look at who you are and ask yourself what are my strengths? Create something that fits you and your life, after all, you are human, I hope. If it will keep you interested for the long haul, it will keep readers interested.
Use a free blogging site, do not pay for a service or for How-to-be-a-Successful-Blogger classes or buy their books. Commit to not spending any money until you make money.
I highly recommend WordPress. When I first started blogging, I tried WordPress, but it has more of a learning curve than Blogger and I went with Blogger. If you take the extra time to learn WordPress, it will have a payoff. Their focus on hooking-up blogs to the blogosphere and the tools they provide for connecting, make it so easy. Connecting to your audience and other bloggers is an important component to a successful blog. It is the best way to organically build an audience and get quality participation on your blog. Plus, The New York Times uses a form of WordPress for its site and you all know how I feel about The Times.
Try a few things. I tried several different blogs before I hit one that stuck and people not related to me actually read:
Shakespare – about all things Shakespeare from my perspective.
FranklyWrite – A different incarnation of this blog as a copywriting blog/business that never got off the ground.
A blog about creativity – I wrote a lot about writing. It was on SquareSpace.com which I liked a lot and was my favorite hosting site until I learned how to use WordPress.
What’s the Story, Morning Glory – short stories from my daily life.
Pollywogging: Tales from a Suburban Childhood – A tumblr blog I was planing to use to for feedback on a series of short stories of the same title. Then I learned it is not a good idea to put stories you plan to sell on the internet for free. So I closed the blog.
FranklyWrite.tumblr.com where I wrote about many different things from writing craft to odd thoughts that occurred to me. I stuck with this one because it did not matter what I wrote because the point was to write. I also credit tumblr’s ease of use, slick appearance and community for the stick-to-it-iveness. I still maintain this blog and enjoy tumblr a lot. All my posts here cross-post to tumblr.
The Rube Cook Blog
I created the The Rube Cook blog not because I knew a lot about cooking, but because I knew nothing about cooking. Learning something new and telling it to others is a favorite thing for me to do. It is this quality in me that fuels the The Rube Cook, my most successful blog. Check it out here.
My first tag line was: If you know how to graze but not how to braise, this blog’s for you. And then: A writer who doesn’t know how to cook starts a cooking blog; hilarity ensues. There are so many good ways to promote it. Surprisingly, the blog became a great outlet for my storytelling abilities and photography. Eventually, I will move it to WordPress.
Is The Rube Cook a successful blog?
A good question. Although it gets ten times the hits of this blog, I would characterize it as moderately successful. The reason for this goes back to The Big 5 above; it has interesting images and the posts are helpful, but are to long and posting is inconsistent.
What The Rube Cook has going for it is, it is about one thing, food, making it easy to market; it is about something every human on the planet can understand; and there is not another blog like it.
The Rube Cook would be more successful if one change was made; posting consistently. I am very inconsistent with it. Making the posts shorter would help, but consistency would have the greatest impact. Once a week, once a month, twice a week, every other week; it does not matter. Sticking to a schedule is key.
Plus, I do not spend enough time connecting to other food bloggers. It is much harder on Blogger to connect with your readers. Blogger’s commenting system is tied to g+ which makes it difficult to comment on my blog if you do not have a g+ account. However, the food blogging community on g+ is large and global.
It is not easy to comment on other Blogger food blogs either. It is easy to develop a blog reading list, though, and Blogger’s Blogging Buzz has a lot of great information on it, but it is not as good as WordPress’s Reader or Blogging University. I feel moving this blog to WordPress would double the hits.
Is This Blog Successful?
I don’t know yet. People read it, but it gets one-quarter the hits of The Rube Cook. A writing blog by definition has a limited audience. Writers want you to read their stuff. When they do read blogs they do it for one of two reasons:
- It is written by Stephen King, J.K. Rowling or Neil Gaiman.
- They want you to read their stuff.
This blog is more consistent, the posts are shorter and I recently started including images and other media. Since I am not one of the writers named above; what gives FranklyWrite an edge is it appeals to both writers and non-writers because the driving force, me, is trying to make a living writing. Will I succeed or won’t I? Tune in next post to find out.
Time is a big factor in the success of a blog and this one has not been around long enough. Its success will depend on my success.
If you have questions please ask using the comments below.
6 responses to “Start a Non-fiction Blog: The First Step in My Grand Plan”
Excellent advice about writing, blogging, and making money at it. It can be done, I once supported myself and five children…for two years, on salary from my newspaper writer’s job. Fortunately I can and do write, but the main thing to which I owe any success I have had is LUCK. Being in the right place at the right time…
This is why the opportunity afforded writers is SO valuable. The chance to produce and present our work on a quality platform such as WordPress blogs. This is truly priceless.
I could not agree more. And often the “luck” is just showing up. So few people deliver in a pinch, if you can, that is usually what gets the paying work. Being the warm body in the room. If you wrote for a paper, I’m sure you know what I’m talking bout.
Great post- love the 5 points! I think this will be ‘successful’ blog too for you- I think you have a head start on the rest of us!
This is really informative! I have trouble with consistency throughout my entire life, but like you said WordPress is great for connecting with other bloggers. I’m hopeful that building a community will help with my consistency. Thank you!
Very Nice Cynthia! I agree with all the ideas on how to get info about starting a blog, I did a ton of research. I still am. But there is a lot of free stuff if you look hard enough. I started with Blogger, and I love WordPress so much more. Mostly cuz I found all you guys in b101 🙂 So nice to have feedback. Hope your grandplan works, as I am just a few steps behind you.
Thanks @samanthamacmaster! Always good to know I am on the right track. Let me know if you find anything useful. I have a lot of stuff I’ve not written about yet and can always use more.
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