Sunday, March 25, 2012

From Unknown to Top 10 in a Year: Are Bloggers Rewriting the Rules?

Top bloggers may not follow the traditional path to writing success, but they are attracting readerships in the tens of thousands - and snagging the attention of traditional publishing houses in the process. Below are some of the classic rules they appear to be rewriting.

Rule Revision #1: Some Spelling & Grammar Mistakes Are Not Okay
I should probably start by saying this belief comes from several credible, successful writing blogs, and at least one that was named in Writers Digest’s “Top 101 Best Websites for Writers.” Okay. I can’t believe I’m considering this, but…they suggest publishing unpolished blog posts with limited revising for errors (Read:  do not edit, revise, obsess, revise and edit again like you would with books and articles you'd like to publish). This is assuming, of course, that you're a decent, if not professional writer who can turn out a pretty good draft.

Here’s the logic:  many bloggers never hit the “publish” button because they’re so concerned with making it perfect. Others spend so long revising each and every post that they give up blogging after several months. And as one writer pointed out, what most readers care about is your content, and will happily overlook minor misstaikes. Another point they make is that bloggers publish more quickly and without a second pair of objective eyes proofing their work, so  some errors are bound to happen and that's okay.

I have to admit that while the writer in me cringes, the perfectionist who spends an embarrassing amount of time revising and republishing the same post over and over is intrigued.  And maybe a little bit relieved.

Rule Revision #2:  There’s No Such Thing As An Overnight Success 
While some authors are dubbed “overnight successes,” writers know that most of them have spent years perfecting their craft and wrote several books before attracting attention with a “debut” novel. I find this oddly comforting: it proves that persistence and hard work are just as important – if not more so – than natural talent or serendipity (aka, the Oprah Phenomenon).

A look at the top parenting, writing, and travel blogs points to a different trend in the blogging world. Take Dawn Meehan’s “Because I Said So”.  After auctioning a set of stolen Pokemon cards on ebay, and including a hilarious story about the “theft,” she intrigued enough people to draw 14,000 blog hits before the bidding was over. And while I can't confirm she didn't have other blogs before this one, it certainly appears that way. She’s since published two parenting books with Simon & Schuster.

Then there’s Ollin Morales, who started his blog to track progress writing his first novel in February 2010, and a year later, was named one of the Top Ten Blogs for Writers by Write to Done. He has over 1500 followers and his blog’s been featured in places such as the Huffington Post.

In a matter of two years.

Yes, it is possible to be jealous AND a raving-mad fan simultaneously. Ollin doesn't have a book published yet, but he's working on one. And if these trends are any indication, the book'll be out on shelves soon.

The list goes on…Ellen Weeren started a travel blog when her family moved to India in 2008, and received a Best Expat Blog award from Tripbase in 2009; Glennon Melton of Momastery had attracted 40 readers just two weeks after starting her blog, and four years later has a following of over 20,000. Most recently, it looks like she’s been approached by several editors with book offers. Which highlights another anti-tradition:  instead of having to go the traditional submissions route, it appears that some of these unpublished novelists are being approached by publishers. 

The Rule They Didn’t Break
But man can these bloggers write. The successful ones I've read have studied the craft, and their writing is alive and relatable. It draws you in with a few words and continues to amuse, inspire and otherwise affect 'til the very last drool-worthy word. Add this talent to a proven ability to attract readers, and it's really not surprising that publishers are taking notice.

And to be fair, while many of the popular blogs I've read recently have grown large quickly, there are the other 150+ million blogs you don't hear about.

As for the successful blogs:  it’s clear that while many started out for personal reasons, at some point they did their research and reworked their blogs with a career in mind, figuring out What Works for their readers, too. 

For those of us who don't foresee overnite success in our future (ehem), this, too, is comforting.

Related Posts:
Mission:  Grow a Blog Readership
What's in a (Blog) Name?
Pinterested? Four Reasons Why Writers Should Be


Cheryl said...

I noticed this too - I wonder if quick success is really that widespread, or if it just feels that way because we're reading the popular blogs that are doing the right things? Great story about the ebay auction!

Colleen said...

Hi Cheryl!

Good point - that may be the case. Either way, I think there's a lot to be learned from studying the successful blogs and figuring out what they've done to attract so many readers to their writing.

Judy Dunn said...

Sorry I'm so late to the party, Colleen. What a great idea you have here, sharing your thoughts on what different bloggers have done to jumpstart their blogs and make them more successful. Very helpful to others, I'm sure

And thanks for the links to some of my posts. : ).

Colleen said...

Hi Judy,

Thanks for stopping by - to me it feels like having the blogging world's William Zinsser drop in for dinner.

Your knowledge is really helping me revamp my blogs, and I'm happy I can share it with other writers through some links!