An interview with Dani Greer: PART ONE
When it comes to finding useful tips and advice on writing, one of the best blogs around is The Blood-Red Pencil (BRP).
Founded by Dani Greer (the brains behind Blog Book Tours), the BRP is a collective effort. With a pool of sixteen experienced editors and authors posting daily advice about everything you might want to know about writing, the site’s an absolute must for your ‘visit on a daily basis’ list.
Dani was kind enough to grant me an interview recently. She answered my questions about the goings on at BRP and blogging in general.
Here’s the first half of that interview (I’ll post the rest tomorrow):
JON: Thanks for taking the time to do this, Dani, I appreciate it. Here's my first question. In today's publishing environment, how important is a blog to a writer?
DANI: I think a blog is one of the most effective promotion tools an author has. If you can build a blog-following early on in your writing career, your job will be that much easier when it comes time to promote your own book. You've already got an audience interested in what you have to say, right? Because you've built that community, they're going to support your writing endeavors. Blogs are fun and easy, too. If you can handle email and can write, you're 90% of the way to being a good blogger. The rest is just marketing the blog daily to build readership.
JON: The Blood-Red Pencil has sixteen contributing editors. How did you all come to work together?
DANI: Oh, dear. I'm not sure I remember. I think it started with a group of us at the Blog Book Tours yahoogroup. (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/blogbooktours) I noticed that many of the blog challenge participants were giving writing and editing advice on their own blogs, so thought a separate group blog concentrating the efforts might be a good idea. From that beginning, we've had editors come and go. Early on, I also had the passing thought that I might be able to use the blog to help an older author whose mysteries I read to launch her blog book tour. Her husband was ill and she couldn't travel very far and I felt a virtual tour could really serve her. But she wasn't very computer savvy, so it was my contribution as a long-time fan.
Neither publisher nor the author were interested in my contribution. So much for good deeds. Snort! In the meantime, the Blood-Red Pencil has taken on a life of its own.
JON: Who decides which subjects to blog about?
DANI: We don't really decide for the most part. We have some flexible guidelines, and sometimes one post sparks another. It tends to be very organic. Or we have a group project that we discuss at our private yahoogroup office. "Ask the Editor", for example, is put together behind the scenes after blogger, Morgan Mandel gets questions from her Ning writing group. Basically, we require that each editor posts twice a month, they put essays into draft on the blog, and I check them, then schedule the posts. We're very flexible. Sometimes we panic and run out of posts and then we all scramble to contribute the night before something is due. It's really quite amazing how it all falls together. I'm guessing it works because each of the contributors is behind the project, they like the basic idea, and without much prodding, keep it going. I love projects like this – everything just falls gracefully into place as if by magic.
JON: What do you do if two editors have opposing views on something?
DANI: We've had a few lively debates between traditionalists and those of more modern and casual outlook. I've had several editors leave the group because they felt some members weren't very good or shouldn't be called editors at all. My feeling is that every writer has to put on the editor hat quite often, whether they doing it for a living or not. So we've included everyone from students to acquisition editors, as well as publishers, college professors, just plain writers, and avid readers who are sometimes the best copy editors. As a result, we have some lively debates. Always friendly and insightful though. After all, language is ever-changing so what's right yesterday might not be write today. If you'll pardon the pun.
JON: As part of your own daily routine, which comes first, the blog (and subsequent surfing), or the writing?
DANI: I actually write my blog posts ahead of time and in Word having lost a few posts that were really quite brilliant. (Or at least they seem so after they're forever lost in the bowels of the WWW.) Then when I go online, I copy and paste and get that chore done fast, often by pre-scheduling for the week. I'm a pretty casual blogger though, and use blogs for various reasons. Some languish if I don't need them for a class. Some are personal and related to hobbies. I even keep my personal journal on a locked blog. Many of my yahoogroups have a related blog, because the groups are private, but the blogs are public. So they work in very different ways for various purposes.
JON: On a regular writer's blog, do you recommend posting about non-writing subjects, and if so, what ratio would you suggest, and which subjects (if any) do you think people should avoid?
DANI: It depends entirely upon the writer. I've seen very successful blogs that give the fan an opportunity to see other parts of an author's life, and they love it. Susan Albert's blog is a perfect example ( http://susanalbert.typepad.com). Other bloggers are very much focused on their writing lives, but that works very well for them. L.J. Sellers (http://ljraves.blogspot.com), demonstrates this very nicely. I think the important factor is that the author chooses a topic and angle that they will be able to commit to several times a week. You really have to consistently blog or you won't gather the readers. The worst kind of blogging is anything negative. Don't complain too much unless it's something your reader can really relate to like weird warnings on products, for example. As a writer, don't complain about your fans, for heaven's sake. When they point out typos in your last book, be gracious and personally thank them, but don't rant about them on your blog later. A blog is public. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that kind of post is going to come back to bite you in the buns sooner or later.
TO BE CONTINUED . . .
Dani has said she'll stop by to answer any questions, so if there's anything you'd like to know, now's your chance to ask.
When Dani isn't blogging for Blog Book Tours, a peer support group which now has 125 author members learning to arrange their own virtual promotions, she creates and maintains group blogs like The Blood Red Pencil: http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com and Penny Dreadful http://pdreadful.blogspot.com. Email her at hotbuttonpress AT gmail DOT com if you'd like to participate on either one.
Want to learn more from Dani? Here’s another great blogging interview she gave: http://www.jungleredwriters.com/labels/Dani%20Greer.html