How to have a free poetry blog in three easy steps or claiming your homestead on the wild frontier of the Internet
(Editor’s Note: see follow-up article, at http://eliastobias.net/?p=2386 )
By Elias Tobias
For serious writers, there comes a time when various types of contests, open poetry nights, and sharing works to friends and family are just aren’t enough.
Publishing a book with a traditional concept, even with publishing-on-demand companies on the Internet, still takes some sort of cash investment. Self-publishing is how many great writers received their start, and it remains an option, if money is available. Like the open ranges of the Old West, the Internet offers alternatives to getting published without great costs for writers.
One option is to start a free poetry blog, and it can be done in three basic steps. First, decide what kind of blog will be created. Then get a free quality host that offers an independent e-mail option, and then third, maintain and promote the web site through personal and online network techniques.
I was at this point 10 years ago when I started my World of Words by Elias Tobias. I had a computer full of poems I wanted the world to read, and I realized I wasn’t going to get paid for it. Unless the writer can arrive at a way to get advertising on the web site in an appealing manner, forget the money reward. Getting exposure may lead to being paid as a professional in the future.
Some people are afraid that the work maybe stolen, copied or used without their permission. That is a reality for all Internet content, and all blog content is basically copyrighted, except U.S. government sites, which is in the public domain. There is a modest fee to register a copyright for a web site for those who want to make blanket coverage for their work. Of course, all content featured and not original material should be cited to protect the copyrights of other authors of record.
Erik Deckers, director of sales and marketing at Vision Direct in Indianapolis, Indiana, has become a renowned blogger and social networker. Since information on the Internet has a way of staying around a long time, don’t be negative about other people and situations, he suggested. The whole world may be watching what is posted anywhere on the medium, including videos, and you don’t want to end up as the subject of a story on the TV news.
I have a test of credibility, called the Mother-in-Law test. My mother-in-law occasionally responds to me via e-mail about something posted, so I know she reads it. I need to look good as a son-in-law, so I figure if what I put on my web blog is acceptable to her, the world is at my feet.
Also, words and images on the Internet are published, like a newspaper. Articles can be deleted on blogs, but once the message goes out, the deleting work won’t always repair damage already done. Also, work must be proofread. I have learned that from experience. Typos and inconsistent style on the web blog are items that can also damage the credibility of a person’s work. The blog is a reflection of that person, seen 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Getting technical, sort of
Loaded with a wagon full of supplies, poems, thoughts, ideas, it’s time to hitch your wagon to the stars, or Oregon, whichever comes first. Aware of the outlaws, ruffians, changes in the weather, a variety landscapes and other obstacles, you strike out on your own, along with other hundreds of people who have their own wagons in the wagon train.
Deckers has his favorite blog creation web sites among the many available today.
“I recommend, especially from someone who is not real computer savvy and they don’t want to spend a lot of time on it, www.blogger.com/ or www.blogspots.com/. There is not much you need to do. You need to pick out a name for the blog. They even check to see if that is available for you. Then you pick out your theme, and that is actually the hardest part. You pick out the colors you want. Not only can you pick the layout, but you can select the colors that appear for background, text, etc,” Deckers said.
He said the name of the web blog should be original and contain the name of the thing you want to be known for. My title, World of Words by Elias Tobias” is exactly what I wanted to say in a title. If poetry is the main aspect of the web blog, the keyword “Poetry” should be in the title. If the name of the writer is more important, the name should be in the title since search engines use keywords in titles for locating the new web blog.
With these two favorite beginning blog sites, there are two advantages over others, besides being free, Deckers said. First, they are owned by Google, which means the new blog is likely to be rated higher at first when the blog debuts, and to get the blog, you need to sign up for G-Mail, another service owned by Google, for another e-mail contact for the new blog. He did not recommend using a personal or work e-mail account for the blog.
An option for those who want a more direct route to the web blog with their web address is to buy a domain name from www.godaddy.com or another name registration site, and the yearly fee for this is usually $8 to $15, Decker said.
“You can do that, and I recommend it. You can do it fairly cheaply, but that won’t stop you from having a blog. This is useful if you are really trying to create something you want to be known for, whether it’s a product or an art form,” Deckers said. “If a person is doing this for fun, I would not knock yourself out trying to buy http://www.poetry.com/ or http://www.indianapoetry.com/. Something may be available, but there are so many people doing this that I’m sure that everystatepoetry.com is taken. You might have to do ‘Indianadot poetryblog.com.’ “
As of Oct. 8, 2008, http://www.indianapoetry.com/ is still available, by the way.
A regional or geographic name included in the title of the web blog can not only add variety, but make the blog stand out in that region or area for search engines on the Internet, he said. A localized blog name attracts viewers looking for topically specific sites for that area. If the title included “Poetry” and “Indianapolis,” it would be easier for a person to find poetry web blog in Indianapolis.
For the more technically minded, Deckers recommended Word Press for another blog creation site. It has plug-ins, or programs that can be included to add functionality to the web blog.
Feedback is important to blogger, so a good e-mail with spam filter capabilities is needed to stay in contact, and Deckers said G-mail would be preferred over free e-mail accounts from places like Yahoo because of the spam problem. One tip he gave to stop much spam to begin with is how the link is set up on the blog. Automatic spam programs look for the “@” symbol in the e-mail address. Spelling out the e-mail address will help prevent this problem, and the link should be written out as “eliastobias(at)gmail(dot)com” within any text content.
Getting the words out
Somewhere about now, some of the people in the wagon train have decided to settle along the way or maybe heard of greener pastures in California, so the number of wagons headed north to Oregon may be smaller.
Choices are being made with your web blog that deal with content. How you set up your blog pages will determine how often search engines find them in the Wild West of the Internet. Use of videos can greatly improve your visibility, and a link to YouTube can bring unlimited number of videos to your viewers, Decker said. Many PC’s have built–in movie-making type program to create simple, but effective videos from video clips or still pictures. Be aware of copyright issues here from work (including music) that is not in the public domain.
I have nine videos associated with The World of Words by Elias Tobias. Decker said that inbound and outbound links increase the networking profile of the web blog. Outbound links to other web sites show that web blog is connected to other sites, and inbound links from other web sites will complete the cycle and bring people to your web blog. I have the International Poetry Link Exchange to offer new poetry bloggers to those who put a link to the World of Words blog.
Using the Notepad function on the PC’s can remove all pre-existing format issues. The process is easy. Copy the text, probably written in MS Word, paste it in Notepad. The copy the text in Notepad (as plain text), and paste it into the content area of the blog. All preset formatting styles on the blog will then apply to the content.
The more activity on the blog will give the blog a higher Internet rating since bloggers like fresh material, Decker said. Entries should be made at least once a week, and they don’t have to be long. A good 200 words will do just fine. Two entries a week are better and daily is the best way. Those who write every day usually set up a week’s worth of blogs as drafts, and then post them each day as if they are new, he said. I usually have two or three poems per week ready to go as drafts. It saves time.
After typing the title of the page in the blog, repeat the title in the text of the blog. This will help gain search engine exposure. Bold facing the title won’t do much for the page, except look better graphically, Decker said. By going into the HTML through the HTML button on the blog page, change the headline in the text a larger font size. Put brackets<> before and after the headline with H3 in the first bracket and /H3 in the second. It should look like this:
Title of article
on the page. This change will get the attention of the search engines and more traffic to the page.
Don’t forget the impact of networking, either person to person, or via the Internet. Business cards with the web blog logo can be made by popular easy to use desktop publishing programs and good quality card stock with perforated edges that pop out cleanly from the page. Also, they can be ordered on the Internet for free at Vista Print, with paid shipping and handling. Hand the cards out an every opportunity. Internet blogs like Smaller Indiana are networking sites with other bloggers, and genuine comments on their sites can bring traffic to your site, Decker said. Mentioning an event with more information at your blog address will increase traffic to your web site, he suggested.
Another way to get attention is to publish press releases for free on the Internet, and I recommend prlog.org. There are others out there, but at Prlog, you can register and links to the web blog are included for free (that word again). Put the press releases, by date, in a special place on the web blog for others to use.
Home Sweet Home
Now you have arrived at your destination, and it is time to built your cabin by the stream and be a pioneer in the Wild West of the Internet with your new poetry blog.
Build reader interest by getting the readers involved. The World of Words is set up to be more than just another poetry blog. The World of Words by Elias Tobias has several free opportunities for its readers to become part of the web blog. First, it is very easy to send a comment about any poem on the screen. Your course content can be individualized to make the character of the web blog all your own.
On my Web site, go to the right side of the page and see link to the free poetry first-aid section, the free poetry forum for those have poems to submit to others to read, free poetry posters, links to other poetry Web sites, free tips about how to get published, free poetry writing lessons, and even a short story that makes for good bed-time entertainment. Have opportunities for promotion from others by offering downloadable screensavers and such.
Poems and photographs on the web blog are put together in electronic books. Look on the right side of the page and see the categories. There are several books to read. The titles include: Love Notes, Figments of My Reality, 99% Fat Free Elias-Brand Poetry, My 60 Favorite Poems, Color My World, Words on the wall: Mental Grafitti , Grace and Glory and Palabras de Inspiración, the set of poems on Spanish. Each book has a different theme and the books grow with each blog entry since the poems are logged in to the books when they are posted. As an added bonus, most of the poems in the Love Notes have audio tracks so that you can hear Elias Tobias read the poems aloud.
A monthly newsletter can be a useful tool for a poetry blog, and I have The Exponet, a newsletter that introduced a theme of writing for each month, along with other information. Your course content should be individualized to develop the character of the web blog.
In time, the cabin will grow into a home as you include more information and way to get people to enjoy what you have to offer. If there are any questions about this article or topic, please contact me at contact(at)eliastobias(dot)com.