I was listening to VirginWorlds on my way to work this morning, episode #119, I think (I’m behind, my phone broke a couple weeks ago, and I just got my replacement), and Brent read a question from a listener who was asking about how to become a game blogger.
I started this blog about a year ago, so I figured I’d share my experiences. I take what I write seriously, but I don’t feel compelled to write something here every day. I’d rather write when I feel like I have something worthwhile to communicate. With RSS feeds, there’s no reason to feel like people are going to lose you if you don’t write every day, or every couple of days. If people like what you write, and you write at least semi-regularly, seeing a new post from you in their RSS feed is enough reason for people to keep you on this reader. That said, if you update once a month, you might want to think about whether you’d really like to be a blogger 🙂 If you write that infrequently, you might be better off trying to write articles for other sites. I noticed Gamers with Jobs has a link explaining what they’re looking for if you’d like to write for them. If anyone knows of other sites that solicit articles, post ’em in the comments! You’re not going to get paid for your posts, but it’s a great way to get exposure and connect with other gamers.
Brent’s response in the podcast was right on. The best way to be a blogger is to just do it. Check out WordPress or Blogger and see which seems easier to use, or which templates you like better, and set up a site for yourself. My blog is damn simple, and I like it that way. I’m not one to mess around with CSS or Photoshop, tinkering and puttering with the look and feel of the blog. I chose a theme, grabbed a screenshot, messed around with the links and the blogroll and the basic shell, and I was ready to write.
I’d get some posts on your blog first, before I started asking people to be added to their blog rolls. I’d guess that before someone is going to add your blog to their blogroll, they’re going to want to know that you update frequently enough to warrant a spot on their list. No one wants to link to a dead site.
Just writing this makes me a little sad, because it seems that Foton over at AFKgamer has taken a break. I should probably take him off my blogroll, but his site is so damn funny that I’m hoping he comes back soon. Anyway.
I know I usually only add people that I read regularly. I don’t think I’ve ever added someone because they asked (actually, I think only one person has ever asked to be on my blog roll, hehe). I add people because they’re the sites I read first when I see something new from them in my Google Reader list.
I’ve also never asked someone to be on their blog roll. While I don’t think it’s bad manners if you do ask, I’d prefer to let the blog owner make that choice. However, that’s totally a personal decision. If you’ve got a good site that’s updated frequently and gets decent traffic, I don’t see anything wrong with politely requesting to be added to someone else’s blog roll. Everyone’s got their own preferences for their site, though, they may want to keep their blogroll short and manageable. Don’t be offended if someone turns you down. If I had all the sites on my Google Reader list on my blogroll, it’d totally hose the page layout balance.
I don’t get a ton of traffic here. I’m sure my numbers pale in comparison with Tobold or Keen and Graev, but I’m fine with that. I write because I enjoy it, and I’m kind of digging the fact that things are growing very organically here. The only “advertising” I do for this blog is posting comments on other blogs. I get to add the URL in when I post a comment, and that seems like the best way to build an audience. First of all, you’re supporting other blogs when you take the time to post a comment on their site. Second, you get a chance to show people what kind of writing they might find if they click on your name in the comments and check out your site. Third, you’re going to be making some friends and acquaintances who enjoy the same things you enjoy. Well, maybe not the part about the ponies, but definitely the part about the games.
Some of my posts started as comments on other blogs, but when they get to a certain length, I prefer to break it out into a blog post and link to the other site. I don’t think people read super-long comments in a blog post, and I don’t want to hog up space on someone else’s blog. Plus, you’re giving the original blog post a bit more visibility by linking to them from the front page of your blog. I’ve found a lot of good sites that way; it’s how I found Keen and Graev, for sure.
My last bit of advice for building an audience, which is worth as much as you’re paying for it, is to find a gaming community of some sort. I’ll admit it right up front, I’m terrible at taking my own advice here. I belong to Gax Online, I just joined the Gamers With Jobs community to play TF2 with them and an old WoW/Eve acquaintance from The Well, and Steam seems to have a great community. There’s a ton of places where gamers congregate, and you probably already frequent a few regularly. If you drop your blog URL in your forum signature or your profile, you’ll probably get some visitors that way as well.
I’m not nearly aggressive enough in keeping up with the social networking sites to promote my blog, but I don’t really mind. I write because I enjoy it, and I enjoy meeting thoughtful and interesting people who have left comments here. For me, promoting the hell out of this site would make it too much like a job, and I already have one of those 🙂 I want this to be a place that I enjoy coming to, where I can write about whatever random thing pops into my head, and hope that people enjoy reading it. You’ll find your own reasons for blogging, but the biggest reason should be that you love to think about games (or whatever you choose to blog about), and you love to write. If those two things are true, you’ll likely be a good blogger, and enjoy doing it.
One last plug: If you do enjoy writing, but you find yourself not setting aside the time to write regularly, I’m reading a great book about being a writer. It’s called “Write Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day”, and you can get an inexpensive used copy on Amazon. The author, Joan Bolker, has years of experience writing and assisting writers, including time spent at the Harvard Writing Center. It’s not just about writing dissertations, although it scales up to that type of task very well. It’s more about allowing yourself to write, instead of putting roadblocks in front of you. Her approach to writing, and the process a writer goes through, makes so much sense to me. When I write larger pieces, I want to jump right in to writing the finished product, which is quite impossible, although I didn’t really understand why until I read her book. Her approach to the whole process of writing details how my brain usually works, and how what I thought was unproductive or wasting time is actually a valuable step toward the finished product I think I should be writing in my first draft.