I always admire those bloggers who push out multiple high quality posts or vblogs week in and week out, though it can be at the cost of personal pressure and burnout, as we have seen again this week with UK Fountain Pens calling time on his creative writings, joining the likes of Matt Armstrong of The Pen Habit Fame. He will be leaving his posts in place (though I will expect his self paid WordPress plan will be allowed to expire so adverts will start to appear over time) and it’s well worth a browse with his 300+ views and reviews. For me … I’ve just been ill and apathetic 🙂
It does remind me though just how much effort is required. This post is not to scare people from trying to blog. If you have something you want to say and you think people may be interested then go for it. Sites like WordPress and LiveJournal have free offerings, though your reader will see adds (unless using an add blocker) unless you take a subscription, and if you have your own registered internet domain (such as my dappr.net) then you may find you already have some free web space and simple tools you can use.
So why could you or should you blog. This is the $24,000 question. We all hold personal opinions, it’s partly what makes us human. Some people are happy to let the world know their views – these tend to be the high posters on forums and Facebook groups, others feel too shy or nervous to express their thoughts, or even fear responses. The ability to blog allows us to express our views in a semi-walled environment. I say semi as there will still be feedback and maybe in locations you have no control, such as forums or facebook.
There are a number of things to bare in mind:
- Always re-read your work multiple times before posting and with gaps in between – this not only helps pick up spelling mistakes but also you may find, like me, what sound fine as it comes to mind does not actually read that well.
- Do not expect posting to be a quick process. Time can pass without you noticing, but I find it takes me from four to 8 hours for a pen related post. Even my holiday blogs, which are lighter and tend to not include photos, still take an hour or so. Also do not worry about having to write in one session. Sometimes I find it easier to walk away and come back (especially if I’m adding bits while at lunch or between meetings).
- Make a decision on photo hosting. Many blog sites will allow you to host locally, and this makes it a lot easier to insert in to your work (plus allow functions like photo rotation/slide shows), however you will also be limited on space. Third party hosting runs the risks of the site disappearing (for example the old Webshots pages) or stopping cross linking for non high end account holders (which is part of the reason I dropped my Photobucket subscription). Personally I use imgur, which is free and easy to use (though they do occasionally change the way you get your meta data). With external linking also be aware of the format – as you can preview your posts, you’ll quickly find what works for your site (for example WorPress uses HTML, where as I seem to remember (and my be wrong) LiveJournal uses BB code.
- Do not expect over night success and be prepared to whore yourself (within reason). I post to a number of fountain pen related Facebook groups plus to a self-promotion channel on a fountain pen related Slack site). Do not over push or repeat post as this can backfire, cost your readers, and also maybe result in a ban for for social media channel you were enjoying using. At first you will get some views, but not many. There are always people happy to take a look at other people’s efforts. As time goes on hopefully you will start to be recognised and the numbers will increase, you may also get a few subscribers plus others may start randomly checking on your blog for new posts.
- Do not expect the viewing numbers of the big names. First pay lip service to some of the page hit numbers on older blogs with fewer posts. I suspect there was some mechanism in the past which would allow you to rapidly gain tens of thousands of views. You will start to see who are the real stars out there partly due their being mentioned by the big name enablers (such as The Well Appointed Desk and The Pen Addict in the fountain pen world), plus there tends to be a quality to their posts which most of us wish we could match. This also reflects in numbers, so in a week I can get on an average review post mentioning it on various threads, a similar number to what UK Fountain Pens was getting in a day without making any announcements. I’m not jealous, Anthony is a far superior blog writer to me (and I’ve always felt my actual pen reviews can be a little cold and clinical) and it did take him time to build up his loyal following.
- Be prepared for spam replies to your posts. To be honest WordPress is very good at picking these up so I stopped moderating posts as I was missing legit replies, which I have since found always get through, so a win-win scenario. It is something you need to keep an eye on though, especially if you are self hosting.
- Once you feel you’re being recognised, try to post regularly – I aim for once a week (my original plan was fortnightly).
- If your blog service provides it, preview-publish and get friends to peer review your work. Alas for me I would have to pay a lot more for this functionality and possibly pay the penalty as a result.
I’m hoping I’ve not scared people off. It can feel satisfying to publish and get positive feedback. It’s nice to see the numbers grow over time. It can be frustrating to see posts you’ve put effort in to be generally ignored – which I find to be the case on the small scale/one man band pen manufacturers few have heard of, you just have to take it on the chin and carry on. At first it can also be a struggle to know just what to post about. I keep a list of pre reviews to write – my musing posts tend to be moments of inspiration which occasionally I manage to remember long enough to start to get down in words.
In the end, aside from personal pride, there’s little or nothing to lose these days. A free account on a number of blog sites will allow you to start. Being a member of appropriate social media groups which allow self promotion will help provide a readership (though small at first). If you don’t enjoy it or it does not work then you can simply stop (and even if you wish, delete your posts), at this point all it will have cost you is some time.
Thanks to Evan at Penquisition for for feedback and spelling correction (pier v peer – woops 🤦♂️)
Julie Paradise said:
Thanks for a great article with some insight into what comes with blogging.
A long time ago, about 10 years already, I had a personal blog in German language, went to blogger meet-ups and conferences and had quite a following myself. I still hold and pay the domain and loosely plan to set it up again, but … time … you know.
The most important aspect I recognized in Anthony’s post about why he quit was _the pressure_. I still believe this pressure is self-imposed but nonetheless real and burdening. So my advice would be to stop thinking you have an obligation to stick to a certain schedule or topic or whatever!
As a blogger you _offer_ _free_ content. You are not obliged to do anything you don’t feel like. Not a steady posting frequency, not the newest or hottest or most expensive stuff, nothing! A (private/pen) blogger does not owe anyone anything. Your time, your stuff, your ressources.
Of course it is nice to have thousands of readers who reply to you and express their love and respect to you and are highly enthusiastic and be a star in whatever your niche is. But this only comes with a lot of steady, meticulous and good work, not as a byproduct of doing some posts here and there. So set your expectations accordingly. And acknowledge that those big names (The Pen Addict, SBRE Brown, Gourmet Pens, Ana of The Wellappointed Desk etc.) either have become professionals by now or have adjusted themselves to maintaining and — most importantly — streamlining their efforts.
Enjoy what you do and do what you enjoy when it comes to a hobby and the things that circle around it.
This is sound advice. I particularly related to the need to re-read multiple times before posting. I do this but still notice typos for the first time only after clicking “publish”.