How was your Labor Day? I labored all weekend on my romance novel. I'm on my final read through which, those of you who have written books know, is an exhilarating and (for me) obsessive time of a book's birth. In other words, I neglected EVERYTHING including sleep and my children and my Monday blog critique to work on it.
I'm still not done. I need another few hours. Sigh.
So here is our Monday critique a day late. And it's PACKED with information which means I shouldn't have gone on so much about myself.(And seriously, I don't know why I'm all shouty capitals today. It's the book high I suppose.) First stop, of course, is our blog: Of Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax and Cabagges and Kings.
Our blogger, loverofwords, had some specific questions for us I'm going to run through my routine stuff quickly.
- I love your header picture. I know it's your own and it's just gorgeous and I think it fits the title.
- I would probably suggest a more interesting background, but I love your picture so much that I'd be afraid a different background would pull away from that. Can you make your whole post area a little wider? Then the blue background won't be so dominant. Of course, I'm looking at your blog on a large screen. Maybe those of you who have smaller screens aren't so bothered.
- A common suggestion I give applies to your blog: Give more separation between your post area and your sidebar. A darker color for the sidebar is the way I'd go. Especially because you're lacking a true color palette.
- Speaking of a color palette. Pick three or four colors and use them consistently. For example, pick one color for your sidebar, another for your time stamp. Another for your titles. And then always keep those colors the same.
- You aren't trying to promote your blog as a writer so I'm not going to suggest the usual depth of pages. But it would be nice to know more about what you want your blog to be about. You can include this info in your About Me section. Is your main goal to share things you've written? Tell us that. We want to know!
- You are inconsistent with your fonts. Pick the same one or two fonts and use them consistently in the same places.
- I prefer five posts on a page. Otherwise it's just too far to scroll down.
- Another way to add some color and interest is to add the LinkWithin gadget.
Okay, there may be more we could talk about in terms of form and function, but I'd like to get to loverofwords question for me. I've actually received this question from others and I'm sure many of you have thoughts and opinions. The question is, can you use pictures and YouTube videos cavalierly on your blog.
A recent incident with romance author and Saturday Savvy Sensation Roni Loren has brought this issue to light. Roni was sued for using pictures without permission on her blog. I have personally worked with a client who was sued for using pictures without permission on their website. Twice. IT HAPPENS. BEWARE.
There are many places you can find free pictures on the internet. Do a search for free images and you can find them. There are also places you can get pictures for free or at a very small cost.
Now here's the big "but" I'm going to share with you. In this "but" I am not giving you permission to steal other people's pictures and I am not suggesting that you ignore that you can be sued for using pictures. BUT I am going to tell you what I've learned from my experiences in internet marketing:
- People who get sued for wrongfully using pics are 99 times out of 100 people who make money from the use of the picture or in a related fashion. Roni Loren is a published author. Her books earn her money. I'm not saying she's wealthy by any means, but she is a prime example of who gets sued. Bloggers who are not advertising on their blog and who are not earning money from book sales or who are under the radar (not a lot of traffic) don't get sued. They may - and that's a very big may - get asked to cease and desist use of the picture.
- If you are sued, you can negotiate any fines. If you are not making money with your blog or related to your blog, most lawyers will just require you to cease and desist use.
- In general, YouTube videos are okay to share. Why? Because embedding or linking to YouTube is not the same as actually having the video on your site. If the video has a copyright, it is YouTube who will be in trouble. Generally, YouTube will remove these types of vids as they discover them from their site and your embed or link won't work anymore anyway.
- If you are under the radar, and by under the radar I mean not published, not a lot of traffic, under 1000 followers, you're probably safe to use whatever images you want. Again, THIS IS NOT PERMISSION, this is just the facts. It's like speeding. It's against the law, but do you do it sometimes? Yeah, I know you do. The truth is, there are so many blogs and so many websites - there isn't any way to monitor all uses of image property to make sure it's legal. So the people who get sued are big guns - people who have the cash to pay or people who will make a good example for others. Only you can make the decision for yourself about using images.
- Now here's the big disclaimer: You are still liable for any picture you use. Even if you used the picture innocently. Even if you don't make money. Even if you say you read my blog and I said go ahead and do it (which I didn't!).
Okay, did that sort anything out? I am officially not under the radar now that I posted this, by the way.
Even with this information out there, I'm not excusing anyone from using pictures in their blogs. Pictures are too important. If you can't find a free picture, use some free clip art. It's better than nothing. (This totally should have been a separate blog post. Sorry to go so long!)
Loverofwords also asked how to drive traffic to her blog. Networking is the only real key. I've talked about it off and on throughout these critiques, but here's one source you can go to.
That was a lot of info. Do you all have anything to add? Will any of you sue me for using pictures of your blogs in my blog critiques? Hope you had a great Labor Day!