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What 14 years of blogging has taught me

What 14 years of blogging has taught me

As of today, I’ve been blogging for 14 years.

That’s right, my blog is not only a teenager but well and truly entering the ‘difficult’ years.

Which fits. It’s a lot surlier and harder to get started now than it was when I wrote my first post on 22 January 2010.

It’s also changed a lot since those early days.

My first post was all about how my move to the country had resulted in a lot more cooking in my life. Young children, fewer takeaway choices, and there I was, living in the Pink Fibro on the south coast. You can read it here – I keep it on this website because purely because of its place in my blogging history.

Speaking of blogging history, I haven’t written a blogoversary post like this for a few years. Not since my 10 Favourite Posts From 10 Years Of Blogging post.

As a contrast, you can read about the 12 things I learned in my first year of blogging here.

Or the 4 things I learned in my fourth year of blogging here.

Anyway, basic crux is that I’m a bit overdue one of these.

 

The two key things I’ve learned in 14 years of blogging

 

The first thing I realised when I sat down to write this post is how much my blogging style has changed over the years.

In the early days, I just blurted it all out, no subheads, no spacing, a dodgy image and pressed send.

But along the way I learned that subheads are essential for reading on the internet. And most of us just want to be able to skim the text and find what we want.

So I’ve broken all of my thoughts about this momentous occasion down into two key points for you, dropped in some keywords (yes, I learned about SEO along the way as well) and have whipped up a tidy social image because Canva came along and changed my life.

Fourteen years is a long time. I’m glad I learnt a few tricks along the way.

But of all the things I’ve learned, there are two key secrets.

 

Consistency is key

I’ve always said that that one of the best things about blogging is the recording of your own history – your thoughts, your voice, your influences, your life at any given time.

In the earliest days of this blog, I wrote every single day and when I read back some of those posts now (they’re not all here anymore) I can see Book Boy and Book Boy Jr as they were at two or five or seven or nine.

I am reminded of tiny moments in our lives that would be forever lost without the discipline of blogging.

For it is about discipline. It’s about observation and training yourself to spot ideas and finding your writing voice – but most of all it’s about the discipline of putting words on a page (screen though it may be) and creating a writing habit.

Today, my blog is much more focused on my author life.

I share my writing knowledge, I share my love of children’s books and reading, I bring together lists of books to help others discover Australian authors and literature, I offer those same authors a space to write their own thoughts and promote their own books.

My blog is different, but it’s still here.

As writers turn to platforms like Substack and Medium or look for places to share their words, I return here, time and time again.

Yes, video content has taken over, yes, things are ever-changing, but I am lucky to receive hundreds and hundreds of visitors every day to this website, drawn by the deep well of words in my thousands of posts.

I’ve used different social media platforms to help spread the word about my blog over the years, but, as we all know, they come and go – while my words remain.

Here.

Secrets of blogging

 

Community is everything

As my focus has shifted from freelance writing to writing novels, from hands-on parenting of small children to being the rock lighthouse that older kids need, from a podcast for writers to a podcast that supports those encouraging young readers (and writers), I come back here to my home on the internet.

And to the people who are here with me.

From the beginning, I have been lucky enough to have had the support of an engaged and enthusiastic community of readers, who have cheered on the publication of my nine novels, as well as the two non-fiction books that have been launched on this blog.

I thank each and every one of you, whether you’ve been here right from the start or you started reading today.

I’m not showing up every day in this space like I once did.

But I’m still showing up.

 


 

a l tait profileAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of middle-grade series, The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher, and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. My latest novel THE FIRST SUMMER OF CALLIE McGEE is out now. You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

If you’re looking for book recommendations for young readers, join the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community, tune in to the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast and sign up for the Your Kid’s Next Read newsletter

Are you a writer? Find out more about my online writing courses here.

Subscribe to my newsletter for updates, insights and more amazing writing advice.

Or check out So You Want To Be A Writer (the book), where my co-author Valerie Khoo and I have distilled the best tips from hundreds of author and industry expert interviews. Find out more and buy it here.

There’s a lot, I know, but then, 14 years is a long time. 

How to guest post successfully: 6 tips for authors

How to guest post successfully: 6 tips for authors

With publications closing and book review sections of newspapers and magazines getting smaller and smaller, authors need to work very hard to find publicity opportunities for their books these days.

Whether traditionally- or indie-published, authors must seek out new and different ways to get their books in front of readers.

Fortunately, in a world where so much has moved online, authors are lucky enough, by their very nature, to have a hugely effective weapon in their publicity arsenal: words.

Having your own author blog and building an engaged community is one way to use your words effectively (and I’ve written about this herehere and here).

But another approach is simply to borrow someone else’s blog or website.

Guest posting 101 for authors

Guest posting is where you write a post or article for someone else’s blog or website, thereby drawing their audience’s attention to you and your work. Sounds simple, right?

Yes, and no. There are a few hurdles to jump between ‘I’d like to use guest posting as an author marketing strategy’ and ‘oh, look, there’s my post being shared widely on that established blog’.

Firstly, you need to know which blog might be interested in your post.

Secondly, you need to reach out to that blogger and actively pitch your work (it’s a rare occasion where a blogger will contact you and say ‘I see you have a new book out, please publicise it on my blog’)

Thirdly, you need to know what it is you intend to write about AND how this post will help to showcase your new book.

But more about that lately.

Let’s look at the first point.

Where to put your words

There are several ways to find bloggers/websites to pitch for guest posting. You could try the scattergun approach, whereby you just google ‘writing websites’ or ‘author blogs’ and work your way down the list.

Or you could just decide you’ll only target blogs or authors that have minimum 10K followers on Facebook – or some other arbitrary system you come up with.

You could do that. I wouldn’t recommend it, but if you have a lot of time to spare, then go for it.

Instead, look at your own communities. Look at the websites you follow, the authors you like, the Facebook groups you like to be part of, the people you like to engage with.

Who are they? What do they have in common? Are they sharing links from particular websites over and over?

Make a list.

Now look at your list and ask yourself this question: if I write a post for this blog, will the audience be potential readers for my book?

This is a really important question. Lots of new authors will look at guest posting on blogs where they can write about a subject dear to their hearts: writing. Which is great. There’s no doubt you’ll probably come up with a cracking post.

But the people reading that post will be WRITERS.

And while most writers are also readers, what percentage of them will want to read your book after gleaning all they can from your pearls of wisdom about writing?

With that in mind, have another look at your list of potential bloggers/websites.

And then make another list about the kinds of websites/blogs you think the ideal reader of your book* would visit.

That’s your actual list.

You’ll note there’s a * on that description and it’s this: if you are writing for children, for the most part you’ll need to be looking for the ideal buyer or recommender of your book. You’re looking for parents/teachers/librarians and the other adults who putting books into the hands of your ideal reader.

Who are you writing your guest post for?

Guest posting takes work. Sorry, but it’s true. Now that you have your list of potential blogs/websites, it’s time to take a very close look at each of them.

First question, does that blog/website take guest posts? Is there any evidence that other guest posters have paved the way for you?

If yes, then great. If no, chances are that you don’t need to waste your time.

Next, read through the last eight to ten blog posts/articles on the site. Even if you’re a regular visitor, don’t rely on your memory. The tone and flavour of blogs can change from month to month as the blogger’s circumstances or focus changes, so a guest post idea that might have worked three months ago may not work now.

As you read through, make a note of the tone or flavour of the posts. Try to get an idea of who the blogger is writing for – what’s their audience?

Have a look at any associated social media – what kinds of things is the blogger sharing on Facebook? What kinds of comments are they getting? What posts are really working for them on Instagram? Who’s engaging?

Once you’ve got a clear picture, it’s time to brain storm some ideas for THAT blog. Pitching is precise.

The key to a successful guest post

A successful guest post is one that provides the blog or website host with valuable content, while ALSO promoting the author’s book in a meaningful way.

You can write about similar subject matter for five different blogs or websites, but the ANGLE of each post/article needs to be honed differently for each blog or site you’re pitching.

As an example, say I was going to write a post about how to keep 13-year-old boys interested in reading, because my next book is an adventure story for 13-year-old boys. I might pitch three different stories thus:

  1. 15 exciting adventure stories 13-year-old boys will love
  2. The secret to getting tween boys back into reading
  3. The reason 13-year-old boys give up on books (and it’s not what you think)

These are obviously all ideas for blogs or websites that have an adult audience.

If I was pitching the same idea for a website that caters TO 13-year-old boys, I might go with something like:

The 10 best books you’ve never read

“But where is your book in all this Allison?” I hear you ask.

Oh, my book is in there. If it’s a book list, my book is on that list. If it’s a blog post aimed at adults about why boys don’t read, it’s got all of my experiences with my own sons and why they inform the brand-new exciting adventure story I’ve written.

In fact, that’s a tip for new guest posters – do NOT forget to put your book in to the text. Don’t just rely on the bio at the end, because readers may not get that far. Instead, start with “When I was writing [my book], with its themes of action and adventure, it reminded me of 10 classic adventure stories that kids today will love… As with [my book], these are books with [insert characteristics] etc etc”

Get your book upfront! And in the middle! And at the end!

But in a natural way.

Now for the pitch

Once you’ve brainstormed all of your ideas and worked out which is the best fit for each particular blog or website, it’s time to reach out via email.

Keep your pitch concise, covering who you are, the guest post topic you are proposing, how it fits into their site (if they have different series or post types, flag which one you are targeting), whether you can supply images (hint, bloggers really like it if you can) and when you’d be able to get them the post.

If they don’t have guest posts regularly, with a standard template for credits, let them know what kind of info/links you will supply along with the main article (eg, I’ll send links to my website and book info, along with a 100 word bio and a book cover), to show them your expectations around crediting. You might as well be upfront about this, otherwise you might end up writing an 800-word article for one link buried deep in the middle of the text.

Then cross your fingers.

Be warned that popular bloggers and websites are often inundated with guest post pitches, and you may not even hear back from them unless they’re keen to take up your pitch. Wait a week or two, then send a polite follow up.

As someone who receives a lot of pitches myself, I can tell you that the ones that really spark my interest are the ones where its clear the author has really thought about my audience. If you can tell me quite clearly what’s in your guest post for me, I’m much more likely to look closely at it.

As a hint, proposing that I do a Q&A with you about your book is probably not going to get you over the line.

After your guest post is published

I’ve got one word for you: share. Share. Share. Share.

Yes, you’ve written the post to effectively borrow someone else’s various platforms, but extend the reach of that post by sharing on your own as well.

Some of you are probably thinking ‘but, of course’, but, and trust me on this, I’ve seen many instances where it hasn’t happened.

Guest posting, as with most things on the internet, is best if it’s a two-way street. And, remember, if your guest post does well, your relationship with that blogger is strengthened – and chances are, you’re going to have more books to promote down the track!

When to start guest posting

As with most things to do with book promotion and marketing, the answer to this is NOW.

Even if your book is not out for six months, start researching potential blogs and websites now. Begin establishing connections, start to make a big list of potential ideas. You could even write some posts that will start to build your name in that blogger’s community.

Six weeks out from publication, start pitching, giving the blogger a time frame for the post. “My book is out on 1 August 2020, so ideally this post would run that week.”

Don’t overcommit yourself – remember you have to write all the posts you’re pitching and you need to do a quality job on each and every one of them. You’re better to send out six highly strategic and well-thought-out guest posts than 13 that you’ve dashed off for anyone who will have you.

Good luck!

Celebrating my 10th anniversary: 10 favourite posts from 10 years of blogging

Celebrating my 10th anniversary: 10 favourite posts from 10 years of blogging

Celebrating 10 years of blogging: 10 favourite posts | allisontait.comTen years ago I started a blog.

In the decade that followed my first terrible post (which disappeared in a blog clean-up some years ago), I have written hundreds and hundreds of blog posts as this blog morphed from being a daily blog about Life In A Pink Fibro into an author blog as I shared my (then) career as a freelance writer and my journey into becoming a published author of children’s fiction.

I’ve really struggled with writing this post. In the past, I’ve celebrated my blogging anniversary with posts about things I’ve learned about blogging in that year. I’ve listed them all at the end of this post so you can follow the whole journey.

I dallied with crowdsourcing the post by posting a Facebook callout, where regular readers shared their most memorable posts with me. Here are a few:

And so I opened the suitcase

6 tips for getting back into the swing with your writing

You will never find time to write your novel

But at the end of the day, I’ve decided that I’m going to do two things to celebrate this milestone.

  1. Share the biggest thing I’ve learned about blogging in 10 years.
  2. Share MY favourite posts from 10 years of blogging.

Brace yourselves.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned about blogging in 10 years

So, the biggest lesson I’ve learned about blogging in 10 years is that blogging is about connections. The thing is, it didn’t really take me 10 years to grasp this. In fact, I blogged about it in my FIRST year. It’s called Why Blogging Is Not Writing and it also came up on the list of reader favourites.

This lesson was reinforced for me in the most painful of circumstances in January when a dear friend of mine – who I met through blogging and with whom I would never have made friends were it not for blogging – lost her beloved husband very suddenly. I think about her every day, and I make contact with her every few days, just to let her know I’m thinking of her. To connect.

If you’re not blogging to connect with people, you’re not doing it right.

Which brings me to…

My favourite posts from 10 years of blogging

These are not the most popular posts. They’re not necessarily the ones that bring the most traffic. They’re the posts that make me smile, the ones that remind me of how blogging really helped me to bring my writing voice down from ‘broadcast’ (think magazines, newspapers, writing for others) to ‘intimate’.

The ones that helped me to develop my inside voice.

Some of them are (gasp) posts I’ve written for other people’s blogs.

And here they are, in no particular order.

Growing up

Getting ready for Big School is for the birds

It seemed like a good idea at the time

Are you ignoring your best ideas?

Why I love reluctant heroes

In writing, as in life, ride your own race

Where angels fear to tread

Words no parent wants to hear: “This could be highly dangerous.”

10 things to do while you’re waiting on your writing (I still hate waiting so I go back to this one often)

The big questions: birds and bees and … whales

So there you have it.

And here are some of those other posts about blogging I mentioned:

My top 3 tips from nine years of author blogging 

The one thing I’ve learnt in my fifth year of blogging

My #1 tip for bloggers

Blogging: inviting readers home

12 things I learned in my 2nd year of blogging

Four things I learned in my fourth year of blogging

Three things I’ve learned in my third year of blogging

To those members of my community who have been with me since the Life In A Pink Fibro days, I say thank you for your comments, your encouragement and your support. 

To those who’ve discovered the blog more recently, to visit regularly or just to pop in occasionally, I say thank you for jumping on board and sharing my journey.

If you’re new here, welcome! You can find out more about me and the various things I do here and more about my middle-grade books here. 

Here’s to another 10 years!

My top 10 posts for writers (2018 edition)

My top 10 posts for writers (2018 edition)

top 10 posts for writers (2018) | allisontait.comI can’t believe it’s that time of the year again! I’m taking a break from the online world for a few weeks at the end of this week, so I thought I’d start sharing some of my ‘new year’ posts early, starting with this one.

I’m always fascinated to see which of my ‘writing’ posts resonate the most each year, and this year is no different. So here they are, in descending order from 10-1, the 10 most popular posts about writing on this site in 2018. (Click the title to see the full post)

The one superpower that all published writers have

Industry Insider: How do you know when a story is finished?

Ask the writer: How to build your author platform

Starting Out #3: Do you need to do a course to be a writer?

6 skills you need to make it as a copywriter

Writing for kids: How to create remarkable characters

Writing for kids: 10 top writing tips from bestselling author Jacqueline Harvey

My top 3 tips from nine years of author blogging

Industry Insider: How to tell when your writing is ‘good enough’

10 things I’ve learnt from writing my debut novel 

Want more? You’ll find all of my posts about writing here.

Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m the author of two epic adventure series for kids 9+, and you can find out more about me here. Click the images below to discover more about my books.

The Ateban Cipher adventure series for kids 9-12 is out now!

The week that was: launch week for The Book Of Answers

The week that was: launch week for The Book Of Answers

Goodness me, but that was a whirlwind. I can’t believe The Book Of Answers (Ateban Cipher #2) has been out for a week already. The Easter long weekend in the middle, plus the end of daylight savings, has left me with a strange jet-lagged feeling (what is it about that one ‘extra’ hour that makes such a difference?), but I thought I’d put together an update.

This blog is my record of all that goes on, so apologies if you’ve seen some of this on one of my various social media platforms, and “hello” if you’ve seen none of it.

A big thank you to my local booksellers (Dymocks Books Nowra and Dean Swift Books) for inviting me in to sign books for my local community. Our region is so lucky to still be so well served by bookshops (another fantastic bookshop in my area is Boobook On Owen and I hope to get there soon) and I feel blessed that, as an author outside a capital city, my local booksellers are so incredibly supportive.

Signed copies of The Book Of Answers at Dean Swift Books Nowra

Support your local bookshops everyone – they do an amazing job!

And, of course, if you’re not local and you’d like a signed copy, head to Booktopia, where I signed a stack before launch day – but get in quick because there aren’t many left. (Handy tip: use this link to order The Book Of Secrets and The Book Of Answers for $25)

First reviews of The Book Of Answers are starting to come through, and I was thrilled with this one from Ashleigh at The Book Muse:

“Gabe’s discoveries were unexpected but worked well with the story – and came at just the right time, with the right pacing. Overall, the elements of The Book of Answers worked really well together, and all the elements tied together nicely at the end. A great read for children aged ten and older, and adults if they like these sorts of stories, and it is a nice quick read as well, which is all down to the well-written pacing of the story.”

Speaking of reviews, Quinn and the rest of the crew of The Mapmaker Chronicles series continue to find fans and friends all over the world. I was absolutely thrilled with this series review by Erik of This Kid Reviews Books:

I really liked this entire series. Five out of five bookworms all-around! Yay! 

Having the books available in the US, the UK, and other territories means that they are finding new readers all the time, which just makes me feel like a proud parent. And, given it was Erik’s fabulous blog that inspired Book Boy to begin his own blog a few years ago, I’m just chuffed with his review of each book (click here to read them all).

Kid reviewers are the best!

Writers might be interested in a couple of podcast chats I’ve had this week.

On this week’s episode (228) of So You Want To Be A Writer, Val and I had a chat about the strange sensations of launch week and why my online community (that’s you!) is so important to me at this time. (If you haven’t discovered my podcast as yet, there’s more info about it here.)

I also talked to Kel Butler from the Writes4Women podcast about author platforms – what they are, why you need one and where to put your energies. Lots to think about.

In related news, for those of you who have young writers and who live on (or near) the south coast, I’m experimenting with some school holiday writing workshops for kids on Wednesday 18 April 2018. There are two sessions, one for kids aged 9-11, one for the 12-14 set.

Click the link for each age group to see all the details and book a spot for your young writer (but be quick – each workshop is limited to 10 young writers and tickets are selling fast).

Okay, I think that just about covers a very big week. Thank you for reading this far and thanks you once again for all your support. 

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