Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Blog Critique: Writing Unleashed

In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

We have a special Wednesday edition blog critique today. Why? Because I said so. How's that for an answer. So go on over to Laura M. Campbell's blog, Writing Unleashed and come back to discuss below.


First of all, Laura, congrats on having such a cool name. And secondly, congrats on becoming a professional writer! WOOT!!

There are some great things going on in your blog: You have your profile at the top of your sidebar, you have ways to subscribe by RSS, and you are getting your name on other people's blogs (great marketing!). But when you have time - I realize you are a busy bee lately - there are a few things I would suggest to move your blog to the next level.

  • Name in Title: You're a professional writer! Get your name in the Title or, at the very least, the subtitle. People need to be able to find you.
  • Post your contact info: Again, you never know who's looking to reach you through your blog.
  • Get a Search box: I love me a search box. It really makes things easier for new readers.
  • Have more than one post per page: I've never given this note before, but I find it a little annoying when there is only one post on a page. It does make for easier reading, but one of the things I like about blogs is being able to quickly read through several posts. Having to always hit "Older Posts" is a little time consuming.
  • Your font color is sometimes very nearly the same color as your background post. Make sure it's always a light color so we can see it.
  • Also, the yellow color that you use for your links is so great. It would be better as your post color. Make your links white instead.
  • And speaking of color - we like the brown that you have on the bottom better than the brown that is your post backgrounds. It's a cooler brown and would be a cleaner contrast.
  • I've said before and I'm saying again - I like single sidebars. They are cleaner. Just my opinion.
  • But if you're going to have two sidebars, really think about what you need there. Your awards are cool, but I'd put them at the bottom or on another page. They tend to look awkward since they are different sizes. Then move your followers up under your profile. Make it easy for people to follow.
  • Connect to your writing, girl! Yes, I know, I don't do it yet either because I'm lazy. But you're not lazy. You're a professional writer with a goal of being published this year. Get your writing samples up for those agents to look at. And think they don't look? Well, let me tell you a story: I had an agent ask me just last Friday for my blog address. Man, I really should have had my writing samples up. Learn from my mistakes, Laura. Everyone, learn from my mistakes.
And that is all I have for you, my fellow Laura. Again, congrats. Here's to a great year for you and your writing!

Anyone else have any feedback for Writing Unleashed?

29 comments:

Clarissa Draper said...

Great critique!

Matthew MacNish said...

I love that you make the point about multiple posts. I think I have mine set to show five, but it might be three. I really need to add a "you might also like" widget.

Laura M. Campbell said...

Your critique was fantastic! I learned a lot. I do have a few questions.
When it comes to multiple posts, how many do you recommend?
I'm not the most tech savvy blogger...I'm not sure how to add pages to my blog like yours (Home, Blog Awards, Contact, etc.).
I think I can figure out how change the colors on the blog...
Thank you so much for your input. I can't wait to make the changes!

Callie Leuck said...

I understand the desire to not have multiple posts on the home page. I feel like it makes the screen cluttered, and I find that it takes more time to load on slower computers. Sure, you can put "jumps" in so that only the first paragraph shows, but a lot of my readers read my posts in their RSS reader, and are unlikely to read the whole thing if they have to click through to do so.

But yes, it does make it difficult to read lots of posts. Laura always recommends the "search" box. Personally, I never use that thing (you have to know what you're searching for) but I accept that perhaps other people do. (You'll notice I added one to my blog, even though I never use 'em.)

An alternative suggestion to deal with the "what are your old posts about" issue is to add an archive. I don't think I've noticed Laura talk about the archive before, but I think they're quite valuable. When I'm reading a blog for the first time, if it interests me, the first thing I do is look for an archive. That lets me get an idea of (1) how often the writer blogs per month (2) what topics s/he blogs about and (3) lets me quickly go to older posts that interest me. (I can't stand clicking through "older posts" -- I get bored too!)

So that's my suggestion. Archive. And search box, since apparently other people use those. (Or the linked-within widget, which I know lots of people like.)

Callie Leuck said...

Oh wait. I see she does have an archive. It's on the left. My eyes skipped over it and were looking for it on the right.

Carol Riggs said...

I just put about 5 posts at a time on my first page; it seems to be enough to give people a taste of what the blog is about. But your point about the Search box--I thought that's what the search square up in the top left was for, a standard thingy of Blogger....? Doesn't seem like you need 2. And I've heard it's NOT good to have writing samples up of things you plan to publish later; publishers will have copyright on that, and are choosy about what appears where. Unless you post samples of work that you don't intend on publishing. :)

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

I don't have anything to add to your excellent critique! (But I do like Laura's blog despite the few tweaks that would make it Laura B. Writer perfect!)

Southpaw said...

My recommendation is to get a header that communicates your genre. You write mystery and macabre but I don't see that reflected in your blog design.

On this post "Check Out The Latest Writing Courses" you have dark brown text on dark brown background. I know Laura already pointed that out but that is a sure way to frustrate your visitors.

Laura, um, Laura Barnes. These are great posts. I always end up going back to my blog to check for the very things you've pointed out.

Southpaw said...

My recommendation is to get a header that communicates your genre. You write mystery and macabre but I don't see that reflected in your blog design.

On this post "Check Out The Latest Writing Courses" you have dark brown text on dark brown background. I know Laura already pointed that out but that is a sure way to frustrate your visitors.

Laura, um, Laura Barnes. These are great posts. I always end up going back to my blog to check for the very things you've pointed out.

Laura Barnes said...

OMG, Carol, I'm an idiot!! A long time ago, the last time I used that search box by Blogger, it was meant to search all blogs on blogger, not the blog you were on. When did they change that? Of course you shouldn't have two!

And yes - do not post what is meant to be published. But usually writers have other forms of samples. Or at least a blurb about what you are writing or working on. How does your agent feel about that?

Laura

Brooke R. Busse said...

I completely agree with you about the Archives. I hate when blogs I want to follow don't have them because I like to go back and read through all of their posts. It's so irritating to have to hit Older Posts until I'm at the beginning.

AlexJCavanaugh said...

Much easier to learn from someone else's mistake than our own! Yeah, one post per page is odd. I like to see several in case the latest didn't catch my attention.

Nancy S. Thompson said...

Yes, more posts per page, please! I'm gonna have to rethink that two sidebar thing myself. Great review, Laura B.! Nice blog, Laura C.!

Mithril Wisdom said...

Very nice blog. I agree that more than one post per page would be a great benefit.
With contact details, is it fine to have them as a tabbed page at the top of the blog, or should they be in the sidebar always?

Melissa Sugar said...

Another great critique. These are my favorite blog post (on the entire web). I love them. I am getting closer to gaining enough confidence to ask for my own critique. I haven't done it yet because I still have so many things wrong that you always recommend changing. Having my name in my title for example, I don't want to change my URL because that is a nightmare. I guess I could change the so called "name" of my blog, but I am so new and have only recently built up a good following and I am afraid that to change the name would cause me to lose readers. I suppose I will have to make a sub header.

Awesome critique

Laura Barnes said...

Thank you!

Laura Barnes said...

Thank you! I think between 3-5 is good. And I love the LinkWithin Gadget!

Laura Barnes said...

You're welcome! Pages should be pretty easy. Just go to Design and then Pages. I recommend 3-5 posts per page. 5 is best. No more than that. It gets really long. Let me know if you need anymore help!

Laura Barnes said...

Great additions, Callie. Archives are great. I've mentioned them once, I think, in all these critiques, but yes they are great. I do like search boxes. There are bloggers that I love and I will often search their blog to see if they have a post on something I'm interested in because I trust them. Label clouds are also a very good alternative.

Laura Barnes said...

Thanks, Susanna!

Laura Barnes said...

That is SO TRUE!! Great advice.

Laura Barnes said...

Glad I could err for your benefit :)

Laura Barnes said...

Some people can pull off the two sidebars so think carefully. And not everyone agrees with my opinion :)

Laura Barnes said...

Contact details are great as a page. They don't need to be in the sidebar. I prefer a page, myself.

Laura Barnes said...

WOW! I love being someone's favorite! Subtitles aren't so bad, are they? They are the easiest way to fix that issue. And whenever you're ready, I'm here!

Callie Leuck said...

Melissa, nothing really wrong with not using your name in the URL -- it's certainly easy enough to just add your name into the header -- or you can change the "name" because that's easy and it doesn't affect the URL. You could do "Melissa Sugar: Fiction Tool Box" or something!

Carol Riggs said...

I don't think a brief "I'm currently working on a post-apocalyptic dystopian" or such like is a problem. I had like 2-4 paragraphs on each novel, and that was too much. Perhaps part of the prob was that it looked like I had already published those books, since I had a mock cover next to them, too!!

Laura Barnes said...

That's what I had thought. Thanks for your feedback. I really appreciate an agented author's view!

Thefantasticlaurab said...

Hello Laura Barnes, my name is Laura B, I am a musician/producer/DJ who over the last 10 years has released a lot of music and performed at a lot of concerts and festivals under my name 'Laura B'. For the sake of good conduct on the WWWeb and to avoid any possible confusion I would be forever grateful if you would stop using 'Laura B' as your writer's name. I personally think that Laura Barnes is not a name to be ashamed of and is rather a great name for hopefully a great writer!

Should you and I get this issue intelligently solved, it would be my pleasure to graciously offer you our two current releases on Fantastic Recordings: Laura B - Midi a Minuit EP and Laura B - Hope EP, on CD and by post.

You can contact me via my website www.thefantasticlaurab.com

Sincerely!

Laura B

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