It's Not a Diary ... or a Rant ... It's a Blog

If you've heard it once, you've heard it dozens of times. As an author, you need to blog.

It sounds simple enough. At first.

But then the questions begin piling up ... Should you start your own blog? Should you pitch to established blogs, like The Huffington Post, Shine, or others? What should you say? Can you just share your thoughts, or do you need a message?

They're all important and valid questions, ones I've been fortunate to get input on from top authors, blogging experts, as well as publishers, agents, and Internet marketing gurus.

To help you navigate blogging's occasionally murky waters, I've gathered the best and most current tips for authors from several of my blogging expert friends.

Here's what they told me:

Deliver value. The best blogs focus on providing valuable content to their readers. More often than not, the itty-bitty details of your daily life aren't useful (or interesting) to your followers -- unless and until those details help them solve their own problems. So for instance, if you're a low fat cooking expert and the tiny tweak you made to a recipe last week made an otherwise lard-laden meal into a light and heart healthy one, that's great content for your blog because it helps the reader cook lower fat meals for themselves.

List it out. When you're delivering your value -- the tips, techniques and strategies your readers can use to solve their own problems -- you'll want to make the information concise and easy to follow. Lists are a great way to do that, making your content digestible to even the most distracted of readers. (As you can see, I use them often myself!)

Never underestimate the value of a good hook. Attention spans are short. Time is precious. If you don't grab readers in your first sentence or two, if you're not "hooking" them right away, giving them a reason to keep reading your post, don't expect that they will. No matter how committed your followers, your job #1 is to keep them coming back. A good hook (followed by the value we just discussed) can go a very long way.

Make it a headliner. Like your hook, a good title can make all the difference. It's what readers see first, and what will compel them to read (or ignore) your latest and greatest post. Your goal should be an interesting title that makes sense, so subtle word play, however clever, can work against you, both with your readers and the editors at established blogs.

Good writing makes for good reading. However casual and quick, beware of letting your blogging turn sloppy. While you don't want ever to be stiff, do take a little time to make your blog posts, as they say, "good reads."

Cut out the rants. Unless you're a political blogger whose negative commentary is the value you offer to readers, check yourself before you vent your bad day on your followers. Except for the rare times when the lessons you learned give your readers value they can apply to their own lives, it's best to save your rants for friends and family who already know how to comfort and calm you.

Get to your point. And fast. However beautifully written, framing your post with a long description of the beautiful sunrise is likely to lose readers in large numbers very quickly. If your post is meant to give readers tips for being more productive in the early mornings, tell them how a morning walk (gorgeous sunrise included!) will get their creative juices flowing. Then, by all means, add the breathtaking scenic descriptions to your journal, where they may inspire any number of great ideas.

Embrace imperfection. Discovery is integral to the author's journey, so if you want to blog but aren't entirely sure what to write about, start your own blog and use it as a way to explore different ideas. You don't have to be perfect from the outset, and you don't have to have a message figured out from day one. Just start writing, and let yourself discover what you want to say while also sharing your thoughts with the world.

I can tell you from experience that blogging isn't a quick fix. It takes time and consistent effort, both in posting new content and promoting your blog, to attract the followers you want and deserve. But as an author and blogger friend of mine recently said, if you're doing all or most of what's listed above, you'll slowly but surely gather followers from far and wide. And when it happens, it'll be far more exciting and rewarding than you imagined, having all these chances to connect with people who are ready and eager to hear what you have to say.

Arielle Ford has launched the careers of many NY Times bestselling authors including Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Neale Donald Walsch & Debbie Ford. She is a former book publicist, literary agent and the author of seven books.