Tonight was our annual Turboween and I’m afraid I got too clever for myself because not a single person got my costume. So if you’d like to play the “What’s Charlotte supposed to be?!” guessing game, I’ll tell you at the bottom. Hint: The theme was weddings.
“What is the fastest way to lose weight?” is the fitness question I get asked the most (my answer here) but the truth is I get asked even more often about the business of running my blog. Today I did a rough estimate of how many e-mails I got related to my blog and it was over 300 in the past 24 hours. Of those, about 15 were questions for me. Twelve of those were about how to blog/what to blog/tips for blogging/book deal questions etc. It hasn’t been my practice to answer that type of thing on my blog as it’s a risky topic – if I sound too authoritative it sounds like I’m bragging or making myself out to be more than I am but if I’m too self-deprecating then I negate all of the things I’ve learned from five years of fitness blogging. But I get asked about this so often that today I’m going to do my best to answer all your questions: all business, no fitness. So if you’re not interested in seeing the (wo)man behind the curtain of the GFE, I will not feel hurt at all if you skip this one. Here goes (it’s long, please don’t hate me by the end):
Q. How did you get to be such a big blogger?
A. This always makes me giggle. I’m not a big blogger. I’m not even big-ish. And I’m not just being modest. According to my page views, subscriber list and other stats, I’m really not big. But here’s the thing: not only am I okay with that but I prefer it this way. Who knows, maybe I’d take stardom if it landed on my doorstep but my favorite thing about this blog is getting to interact with you guys. I love reading your comments, tweets, e-mails and blogs. I love having all these interesting, smart people around me to challenge me and discuss things with me. And right now I’m about at the limit of things I can personally respond to. (300+ emails a day and I read every single one.) Many big-time bloggers hire out their comment moderating and replies (true story even if they don’t cop to it) and I never want that to be me. That would suck all the fun right out of blogging for me.
Q: FINE. So how did you get to be such a, um, second-tier blogger?
A. Yeah, I didn’t really answer your question the first time. Here are my two tips for people just starting out: 1) Keep at it and 2) Build connections with other bloggers. I’m convinced 3/4 of this game is sheer tenacity. Reach out to people on their blogs or through e-mail and be sincere about your interest.
Q: Do you try and comment on everyone’s blog then?
A: This is a very personal thing for each blogger – I know many very successful (far more than me) bloggers for whom this is their primary mode of driving traffic to their site. There’s a reason it’s called “Comment LUV.” I’ve heard of this blogger-commenting-on-blogger’s-blogs tactic referred to as a “circle jerk.” (Crude but sometimes true.) But more often I think it’s like we’re one big think tank building on each other’s ideas. The key here is to be sincere. Nobody likes those “You have a very informational blog I will read again” comments. For me, unfortunately, I don’t have time to comment on every blog and I have a policy of only commenting when I have something to add to the conversation. So if I comment on your blog it’s because I really enjoyed what I read and you made me think:) And I hope you’ll do the same for me.
Q: What is your Alexa/Klout/Technorati/Flibberdigibit rating? How do I get mine higher?
A: I have NO CLUE. For a girl so obsessed with her own body numbers, it’s surprising but true: I never ever check my stats. (Also known as “stat crack” in the blog world.) Any of them. I can’t remember the last time I checked my subscriber list. I only look at my page views when a sponsor asks for them. Couldn’t even guess the number of Twitter followers I have. Some bloggers are really good at working the different spheres of influence to their advantage. I’m just not. But if you are interested in what mine are I believe they are all public so feel free to look me up. I’ll probably be excited no matter what you tell me because I’m totally clueless. (See, ignorance IS bliss!)
Q: What about SEO? Do you have any tricks? What is yours like?
A: Confession: I only realized that it stood for Search Engine Optimization about a year ago and before that I’d just nod and try not to look vacant. For anyone else who doesn’t know, basically it’s referring to your ability to rank high with search engines by using key phrases, tagging, links and other things so when someone types in “grossest gym story ever” then my blog will pop up first. There is a whole science dedicated to this, companies are founded on this principle and there are so many blogs and books on this subject that I wouldn’t even know where to start. I don’t try to increase or maximize or whatever my SEO. I wouldn’t even know how to. (Someone commented that I drive them nuts with my really long post titles because it’s an obvious bid for SEO but the truth is that I write really long post titles because I suck at writing titles (always have) and I’m just trying to be descriptive. I want people to know what I’m talking about from the start so they know whether or not they want to click through. But I had no idea it was irritating people so I will totally work on trimming those down! (See today? Only 5 words!) You may have gotten the idea that it’s gauche or lowbrow to write for SEO. It’s not. This is how people make money off their blogs (and probably why I don’t). I admire bloggers who are good at SEO. I wish I was good at it.
Q: Speaking of money… How much do you make? Are you one of those bloggers who can quit their day job to be a “pro blogger”?
A: Hahahhahahahhhh! Oh wait, what were we talking about? I can’t type through the tears. Seriously, no. I make very little off the ads on my blog. I make better money from doing the occasional “sponsored” post (meaning the company pays me to write it but does not, ever, tell me what to write). My husband calculated my hourly wage based on my blog earnings and I make about 10 cents/hour. But where I make my real money is from my writing jobs I have for other sites, blogs and magazines. I’m employed by Shape, Redbook, and iVillage to write on a consistent basis for them. I also have freelance contracts with many other media outlets. The thing is, I never would have got any of these jobs if I hadn’t had this blog as a resume of sorts. And in the meantime, I’m still grading the essay portion of the SAT. 11 years of reading about The Scarlet Letter people. It’s not pretty.
Q: So how do I get to be a pro blogger?
A: Seeing as I’m not one, I can’t really answer. The only thing I can tell you with any certainty is that if you’re going to blog, do it because you love it. If you aren’t passionate about it then it’s not going to be worth doing and I have yet to meet anyone who started a blog purely to make money and actually have it work.
Q: Okay, well then how do I get paid magazine/newspaper/blogging work like you?
A: I love this question because I firmly believe that there can never be too many wonderful writers and I’d love to see every one of you who aspires to do this accomplish your dreams. And I’ll do my best to help you. First you need to have good content that people can see. So have an author site or a blog with consistent, strong content. Second you need to connect with people. Like many businesses, writing is as much about who you know as what you know. Twitter, blogging, and Facebook are all great resources for connecting with editors/publications/sites that you are interested in. Once you know a few people, query, query, query. Pitch them ideas and just know that it takes a lot of pitching to get a bite. A lot. Don’t be discouraged by rejection. P.S. There will be plenty of people who will want you to write for them… for free. Whether you do so is up to you – one one hand it can be good exposure for your blog if the site is big but on the other hand if you always give away your work then people will never have reason to pay you.
Q: What about getting a book deal? Did someone just call you and ask to publish you?
A: I wish. I have heard of mythical bloggers who have this happen to them but every published author I personally know (plus myself) has had to work very hard to get published. I wrote in more detail about the process for traditional publishing (i.e. not self publishing) at Fit Blogger’s Guide but here’s the short version: Decide if you are writing fiction or non-fiction. If it is the former, write the whole manuscript first. If it is the latter write a book proposal first. Next step is to find an agent by sending him/her a query letter. No reputable publishing house will talk to you without one. Never sign with an agent who wants money up front. Once you have your agent, he/she will shop your book or book proposal for you to the various publishing houses. Hopefully several will jump on it and there will be a huge bidding war over your book. More likely it will be a slow process filled with many, many compromises. Never sign with a publisher who wants you to front the money. Once you, your agent and your publisher have all the details ironed out you will sign a contract and you’re good to go. Obviously this is just a very general overview and the process can be slightly different depending on your niche – cookbooks are one of those. Note: there are a lot a lot a lot of publishing scams out there so be very careful not to let your desire to see your book in print overtake your common sense.
Q: How do I get on TV like you?
A: Be crazy enough and people will be knocking down your door to be on their show. Have you learned nothing from The Real Housewives of Wherever??
Q: So what about ads?
A: As a blogger you have a choice of going with an ad company like Google AdSense, BlogHer, or Foodbuzz (among many others) or getting your own ads. I went with BlogHer because they take care of everything and I’ve had a very good experience with them. While I don’t make a ton of money, I do make enough to pay for my kids’ lessons or the occasional meal out and any money is better than nothing, right? (Just FYI, I had a Google AdSense ad on my site for nearly 3 years and made a total of $20 dollars off it – which they never sent me because they won’t cut checks for less than $50 or something.) Other bloggers have told me that I’m seriously missing out on the big money by going with a company instead of selling my own ad space and several of them have told me impressive figures that they make. But I don’t have the time or energy to devote to that right now and I’m happy with BlogHer.
Q: *disappointed sigh* So it sounds like you really don’t know all that much about the business of blogging.
A: Yeah, I tried to warn you. My real strength is my content. I work very, very hard to try to provide funny, educational and useful posts in a professional manner (well as professional as one can be who discusses some sort of bathroom function on a weekly basis). I’m not perfect but I am getting better. And the best way to improve your writing is to just write. A lot. For me this doesn’t feel like work because I love it almost more than I love anything else. I write for hours every day and I’d be writing even if no one ever read it. But I’m really grateful that you do:)
Q: I’m sold. How do I start?
A: Most people go with either WordPress or Blogger. Blogger is easier to figure out and use right away but if you plan on sticking around I’d start with WordPress as it is more stable and has greater flexibility.
Q: What is up with your comment section being soooo slow/not loading/deleting all my carefully chosen words?
A: I know. I’m so sorry. It’s been a known bug ever since I switched to my new site a few months ago. My awesome, incredibly smart and talented web guy has done everything he can. I wish I knew more coding so I could figure it out myself. In the meantime, thank you so much for bearing with me. Also, I still haven’t figured out a way to import a year’s worth of my old comments from Blogger so there are quite a number of posts that have all the comments gone. This makes me want to weep because you guys are gold and often what you write is so much better than what I do. I refuse to give up though. I’ll keep working on this!
Q: What exactly is your commenting policy?
A: I don’t delete comments as a general rule. I don’t mind at all when people disagree with me and the only two times I’ve removed a comment was because one was a very creepy pedophile and the other wished me murdered. I have never banned an IP address. You can feel safe commenting on my site – I generally don’t get defensive and I won’t attack you. Also, if you want to leave me a link to a certain post you wrote on your blog that is relevant, do it!! I love reading your stuff and sometimes I don’t make it around to see it all. I know some bloggers don’t like links in their comments but I enjoy them. Pimp your work, baby! (Unless you are selling “Vaigria” or diet pills. Then I will feed you to my spam filter.)
Okay… wow! That was a lot. I hope I answered all your q’s. (Or lulled you to sleep with the monotony of today’s post.) Feel free to ask me anything else or leave me your best blogging tips in the comments! I love you guys!
Ready for the guessing game? What am I?? Hint: Wedding.
Give up? I’m the BOUQUET! Yeah, yeah, I’ll do better next year… In the meantime feel free to appreciate how creative Turbo Jennie and her crew are: In the front row we have a Wedding Singer, A Dollar Dance (real money shoved down her cleav!), me, Turbo Jennie as a “bridesmaid the morning after”, a Bridezilla complete with dinosaur t-shirt and claw gloves, a Destination Wedding, a New Groom (with a knife through his head) and an adorable little Cartoon Flower Girl among other creative costumes. Jon in the front is holding up a picture of someone – hopefully his wife. (We missed you Michelle!)