10 things your blog needs to attract more readers

We know you love blogging. You get to pour your heart out and write about things you love. 

However, what the point of writing day in day out if no one is reading the awesome things you are writing. As you post consistently on your blog, you must also think about steps you can take to increase your blog’s traffic. 

We have 20 things you can do today if you want more people to be attracted to your blog. Take a look at the list and implement a few of them as soon as possible. Your blog will thank you. 

1. Have a clear brand. Yes, your blog is a brand and that brand must shine through with every post. Pay attention to brand elements such as colour, design of images, writing style, tone etc. 

2. Meet the needs of your ideal reader. Don’t forget your reader. Make sure they actually find your blog worth visiting and reading. 

3. Sort out the tech stuff. Your blog needs to be responsive and mobile friendly. It’s 2017. We don’t need to say more. 

4. Work on your homepage. A drab homepage will drive readers away. Spend a bit of time working on your homepage. Use eye-catching images and some fun words/ phrases on your home pager. 

5. Easy to navigate. Your readers should not struggle to search for things on your blog. Life is already stressful. No one wants to come online to be more stressed. 

6. Access of previous posts. If your readers want to read your old posts, you should make it as easy as possible for them to find those posts. Have a neat archive for your posts that is visible. 

7. Don’t be all over the place. You blog should be simple. Messy blogs are tedious to read. It’s like too much is going on at one. Keep it as simple as possible. 

8. The comment section. Make it easy for your readers to leave a comment. No one wants to climb a mountaing just because they want to drop a comment on your blog. 

9. Add some variety. Your content shouldn’t be the same day in day out. Switch things up. Use video, memes, quotes and guest posts to make your blog more interesting.

10. Contact page. Wondering why this is there? What if someone wants to contact you to offer you a big opportunity or a really big platform wants to feature your content on their site, how will they contact you? Create a contact page on your blog and include your contact details. You might want to limit this to your email alone so you don’t begin to have stalkers. 

We hope you can begin to implement some of these tips as soon as possible. 

 

#WordOfTheDay – This is what ‘Chicanery’ means

It’s time to learn a new word on The Sparkle Writers Hub!

Today’s word has a very interesting meaning and the word is ‘Chicanery’.

Pronounced \-ˈkān-rē, -ˈkā-nə-\, Chicanery means clever, dishonest talk or behaviour that is used to deceive people.

Here’s how to use it in a sentence;

  1. He wasn’t above using chicanery to win votes.

  2. That candidate only won the election through chicanery

Pretty easy right? Try using it in a sentence today. 

#GrammarSeries – Never say ”The reason why.”

This error is so common that it no longer sounds like an error. But, it is!

You may ask what is wrong with saying ”The reason why”. Well, that’s pretty simple – REDUNDANCY!

The word ”why” is a special pronoun that expresses reason. Therefore, saying ”the reason why” is as good as repeating ”reason”. In addition, the pronoun ”why” usually introduces an adverbial clause or phrase, not a noun/nominal phrase. Hence, it cannot serve as the subject of the sentence.

So, instead of saying:

“The reason why she came was to borrow a book.”

Simply say:

“She came to borrow a book.”

“She came because she wanted to borrow a book.”

See you next week! 

 

Get started as a freelance writer with these tips

One of the greatest joys of being a freelance writer is getting rewarded for your skill. We are referring to financial reward. At a time where many people call themselves writers, what are the odds that you will get good paying freelancing projects?

Well. the odds are not that slim. You however need to take some steps to make it easier for you to attract those kind of opportunities that will make you smile to the bank. 

Here are some tips which we know you will find useful. 

Define Your Niche and Target Audience 

You cannot be a jack of all trades when it comes to freelance writing. You need to have a specialty. Will it be fashion? Lifestyle? Politics? Or Inspiration? You decide. 

Make your choice based an area you are good at or you can easily adapt to. Don’t limit yourself to areas you love. Think a little bit wider. 

Once you have chosen your niche, identify who your potential clients will be. If you want to specialize in tech, you may want to list out all the tech companies available and begin to do your research. Keep your ears open for opportunities to do freelance writing jobs with those companies. If you are bold enough you can even pitch your services to them.

Create a Website or Blog

How will potential clients find you? How will they assess if you are indeed able to deliver. A website or a blog will address this. 

You can begin by building a simple WordPress website or blog. Once you’ve done this, post some freelancing work you have done. Don’t forget to include a list of the services you offer, testimonials from previous clients if you have any (It’s always a good idea to get testimonials from those you write for) and of course, your contact details. 

We love the way Ebun Oluwole showcases her work on her personal website. 

Publicize what you do 

Yes, we know you are a writer but if no one knows what you do how will you make money from your writing skills? You must begin to see your freelance writing as a business and to attract high paying clients, you have to do some marketing. There’s no other way around it. 

Make the most of social media. Have a great bio. Across all the social media platforms, let it be clear that you offer freelance writing services. Promote your work on social media; both organically and through paid ads. You can do this with as little as $5. 

You also need to interact and do some social listening. Twitter is great for this. People are always looking for who can offer one service or the other. Another great platform for you to market for yourself is LinkedIn. If you do not have a LinkedIn profile, we advice that you create one. You will come across several useful clients and opportunities there. 

The last thing we will suggest is for your to become visible on Google. Aside from writing blog posts on your website, feature on other websites through guest blogging and contributions. This will improve your Google ranking when your name is searched for. Always make sure your bio reflects that you are a freelance writer when you contribute to these sites. 

Don’t forget that making the money you want from your writing skill will take some time and hard work. You cannot afford to leave anything to chance. 

 

#WriterSpotlight – “Nigerians read, but the writers need to work on getting their art across.” Ijeoma Ucheibe

Hey Sparkle Writers! It’s time for another #WriterSpotlight. Today we have Ijeoma Ucheibe, popularly known as Bagus Mutendi. She is a literary critic and she has some great advice for writers who want to publish books and write stories.

You’ll definitely enjoy this one!

Hello Ijeoma. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

Ijeoma was born in Kano. She speaks Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, a smattering of French, German and bad Spanish. She is also a corporate commercial lawyer who writes academic papers from time to time. She also runs a literary blog called Bagus Mutendi where she talks about literature and the arts with a focus on Africa. She’s also the publicist for the hugely popular #BookOnReview show which talks about African Literature and airs on Classic FM 97.3 (a prestigious radio station) every Saturday 9pm. She also talks books on Nigerian Info FM, Lagos on the #TheBookClub with Katherine Obiang (On-Air Personality, Nigerian Info FM/ Actress) and Abigail Anaba (author, Sector IV) on Thursdays 9.30 pm.

You’re known by the name Bagus Mutendi. What does that name mean?

It’s a childhood nickname I grew up with. It’s a mashup of Indonesian & Zimbabwe names and simply means precious warrior.

Have you always known that you will be a literary critic?

It wasn’t so obvious in the very early years, but as I negotiated through puberty, I knew that it would not be enough to just read books. I began to feel that I should have something to say about these books. As you grow older, your opinions about the things you feed your eyes on begin to expand, your tastes evolve, and where you feel something should have been written better, or not written at all, you find it hard keeping that feeling to yourself.

Can you tell us some of the best books you’ve ever read or critiqued?

This is a really difficult situation to be in, I’ll take books over chocolate any day, but since you asked, I’ll say; Dick Francis’ “Shattered”, Noviolet Bulawayo’s “We need New Names”, H. Rider-Haggard’s “King Solomon’s Mines.”

As a blogger who focuses mainly on the literary arts, can you tell us how you started on this journey?

This journey has been in my head for over 5 years but procrastination has always gotten in the way till March 2016 when I decided to get serious about it.

In recent times, we have seen a rise in African authors who are coming up with quality content for the African audience. What will you say is responsible for this development?

Over time, our narratives have evolved. The themes have changed, it’s not just about war and poverty anymore. The stories that millennials have to tell are different from those of older generations, and this helps for diversity in narration. There has been a proliferation in number of writers over the years, and the dense population of creatives in Africa has led to an increase in the quality. With more competition, you have no choice but to churn out a good story if you do not want to get swallowed up.

As a literary critic, what are the things you look out for in a book for it to qualify as a good book in your eyes?

For me, I look at the originality of the theme. Novelty appeals to me, and since I usually find my nose buried in lots and lots of books, the writing should either tackle a new theme, or offer a fresh perspective to an old theme before I can say I’m impressed. Beyond that, I can’t get past the first hint of a cliché. The African continent is overripe with an abundance of narratives, so I don’t see the need to waste my time on over-flogged storylines.

What will you say is the biggest challenge the writers and authors face in the country?

There are a number of prevalent challenges, but for me, the biggest challenge to surmount is locating a vibrant and active target audience. Much is made about the fact that “we don’t read”. In my opinion, Nigerians read, but the writers need to work on getting their art across.

What are some of the pitfalls writers need to avoid on their journey to becoming published?

Writers should eschew shoddy storytelling and editing as much as possible. No publisher wants to have anything to do with a creative who cannot properly put his work together. Again, writers should avoid being unnecessarily selective when it comes to the desired platforms on which they want to be published. Yes, some platforms come with bigger reputations, but what is most important is that your craft is out there.

The state of the publishing industry leaves a lot to be desired and many writers are opting to be self-published. What do you think can be done to change this narrative?

There needs to be a lot more sensitization on the relevance of publishing houses. Then again, publishing houses should make their deals and conditions more flexible. Sure enough, the economy is volatile, but Art should not always be sacrificed on the altar of convenience. It would also be helpful if publishers engage the services of scouts or agents, who would go out there and sniff around for good literature. That way, Talent meets Opportunity, because for the most part, that’s the major drawback; poor marketing!

What advice will you give to any writer who wants to become a bestselling author?

My words are few, but I hope they resonate: Keep pushing, strive to get your voice heard, speak even if no one appears to listen.

Should we expect a book from you in the nearest future?

Well, you never say never. Fingers crossed.

 

If you know any writer who you feel should be featured on our #WriterSpotlight segment or you are that writer, please send an email to thesparklewritershub@gmail.com. 

#WordOfTheDay – This is what ‘Abstruse’ means

Hey Sparkle Writers! Are you ready to learn a new word?

The word we’ll teach you today is ‘Abstruse’. 

Abstrus has its origin from the Latin word abstrusus which means ‘put away, hidden’, from abstrudere ‘conceal’, from ab- ‘from’ + trudere ‘to push’.

Pronounced [ab-stroos], the word means difficult to penetrate. It can also be used to describe something that is hard to understand or is obscure. It’s quite a useful word right?

Here’s how you can use Abstruse in a sentence;

  1. Her subject matter is abstruse.

  2. you’re not the only one who finds Einstein’s theory of relativity abstruse.

When next you want to refer to something that is difficult to understand, try using the word ‘Abstruse’ See you next week! 

#GrammarSeries – 8 boring words you need to stop using right now

Hey Sparkle Writers! Welcome to another #GrammarSeries. 

Today we want to talk to you about words you absolutely need to stop using right now. It’s not that these words are bad but they are stale because they are overused.

You know we always have you covered. As we highlight the words, we will show you words you use in its place.

Pretty

Do you use the word ‘Pretty’ a lot. We think it’s time to stop. Here are some other words you can use; Beautiful, Lovely, Elegant, Attractive, Handsome, Striking, Gorgeous, Exquisite, Fair, Cute.

Little

This word is overused. Thankfully there are some fantastic alternatives; Compact, Diminutive, Miniature, Slight, Minute, Microscopic, Petite.

Funny

Are you fond of saying something or someone is funny, here are other words you can use in its place; Amusing, Humorous, Witty, Comical, Silly, Hilarious, Hysterical, Laughable, Jocular. 

Nice

We know we have a lot of nice people around but other words can use used to describe such people; Benevolent, Gracious, Considerate, Decent, Congenial, Courteous, Warm, Cordial, Humane.

Happy

Do you know these words can be used to express the same meaning as the word ‘happy’? Merry, Glad, Pleased, Delighted, Jolly, Elated, Thrilled, Cheerful, Jubilant, Joyful.

Run/ Ran

Instead of saying that someone ran away, you can try using any of these words; Bolted, Hurried, Raced, Dashed, Galloped, Jogged, Sprinted, Rushed, Sped, Darted, Trotted.

Bad

If something is bad, you can use the following words to convey that; Atrocious, Terrible, Dreadful, Vile, Brutal, Despicable, Sinister, Nasty, Wicked, Abhorent.

Smart

It’s very tempting to use the word ‘smart’ when describing someone’s intelligence. Here are some other words you can try; Witty, Sharp, Brainy, Gifted, Wise, Clever, Bright, Quick-Witted, Knowledgeable.

 

This is what it means to write from the heart

Your ideas are valuable

”Write from the heart.”

You must have heard this line before. You are probably still wondering what it means and why people insist that you must write from the heart. The answer is not far fetched. It is the best place to write from! 

There is a difference between writing because you have to or because your job demands that you write and writing a piece from your heart – something that resonates with you and literally brings fire to your bones.  That’s the reason they say: ”No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” When you write, write from a place of understanding, passion and if possible experience. It reflects and ultimately affects how your readers will respond to your piece.

We are not saying you must always write about something you went through. We are asking that you write about topics you are passionate about; talk about what makes you tick and hey, make us love it too.

It makes your work easier and your readers will also have a good read!  

#WriterSpotlight – “It’s lovely to know that even when I am gone, generations to come can get an insight into my mind.” Tolu Akinyemi

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Hey Sparkle Writers. It is time for one of our favorite segments on the the Sparkle Blog, #WriterSpotlight.  Much more than we could have imagined, this series has helped us gain insights into the life of many amazing writers. Today’s guest is no exception. 

He is an outstanding writer and we are honoured to feature him on this platform. If you do not like poetry, we’d ask that you look for any of Poet Tolu’s poems. You will definitely change your mind. 

Enough of the talking; let’s go straight to his interview. 

Hello Tolu, please introduce yourself to us.
My name is Tolulope Akinyemi, also known as Poet Tolu. I’m a writer and a poet and a few other things. I am a Nigerian who currently lives in the United Kingdom.

We did a little snooping around on your blog and found out that you are a writer, architect, and entrepreneur. Can you please take us through the process, how do you do all these simultaneously?
I write mostly at night and it helps that for some years till now, I’ve learnt to get by on a few hours of sleep daily. It also helps that I’m a single man without family commitments yet. My time is completely mine. I write by night and do the other things by day.

Do you think you were born to be a born writer?
As a kid I really wanted to learn to play the piano, but my parents couldn’t afford to buy one. I would arrange my mum’s cooking pans in a line on the floor, turning them into a kind of ‘percussion piano’ but it obviously wasn’t a real piano. The interest died out eventually, and I didn’t become a piano prodigy that I might have become if we had a piano in my home and I also had an opportunity to learn it. Perhaps people are born with talents, but I think what we call talent is usually opportunity that met interest (voluntary or induced) that became a passion. Growing up, we didn’t have a piano in my home, but we had books, tons of them and I read them all, including the ones in Yoruba, my native language. Did that contribute to me becoming a writer? I think so, and that lends some credence to my earlier hypothesis about opportunity, interest, passion and talent.

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You have written three books, which was the toughest for you to write?
The first one. Not the writing per se, but being new to writing and publishing. There was a slight learning curve with many things I needed to understand.

We know that you write poetry for those who seemingly ‘hate’ poems how well has this worked out?
The amount of positive feedback I get suggests it’s been working out well. Many people avoid the poetry genre not because they don’t enjoy reading but because they find it tedious, obscure and difficult to understand or relate to. Remove that, and they enjoy poetry almost as much as any other genre they love to read.

Did you have to train yourself to write simple yet profound stories or does it come naturally?
In a way, I had to learn to understand my audience and define what my own style would be.

We know you loved reading since secondary school in Akure when you smuggled library books so let’s play a little game;

Enid Blyton or Charles Dickens
Enid Blyton (because of the fond memories from my childhood)

Playing football or reading a novel during the weekends?
Tennis

Fiction or Poetry?
Fiction (interestingly)

How much did reading help shape your love for writing?
A lot. I always say every good writer must first be a good reader. It’s the love of reading that sparks the love for writing. It’s like opening the door before walking through.

What’s your take on the belief that ‘talk is cheap’?
It’s not a belief, I think it’s a fact. We may not be able to say the same for its consequences, but ultimately, speech is free.

Tell us two things social media doesn’t know about Poet Tolu.
I’ll tell you one. I have never tasted alcohol.

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How do you know that a particular story will be a hit or do you just write hoping that somebody will relate to it?
It’s hard to know how well people will accept a writing, but the chances increase with how well you understand your audience and what they love or want.

What do you love most about being an author?
Next to taking ‘selfies’ it’s one of the easiest ways to immortalise oneself. It’s lovely to know that even while you are gone, generations to come can get an insight into one’s mind. There’s also a ‘social prestige’ that comes with being an author. I once went for a medical checkup and the doctor got really excited when she learnt I am an author. She insisted I signed a flyer advertising my book, which I found amusing.

To get Tolu’s books go through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. They are also available in Nigeria through Konga, Jumia, Rovingheights, Okadabook

If you know any writer who you feel should be featured on our #WriterSpotlight segment or you are that writer, please send an email to thesparklewritershub@gmail.com. 

 

#WriterSpotlight – Eniola Adenijiloves that writing gives her the power to weave beautiful stories

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It’s #WriterSpotlight time! Who is excited because we are. Our guest is the multi-talented Eniola Adeniji. According to her, hardcore dedication, tenacity, persistent and a drive towards success have helped her get to this point. You need to read her story. 

Hello Eniola, please introduce yourself to us.

My name is Eniola Ennmae Adeniji. I am a writer, a content developer, a Marketing Strategy Consultant, a Chef, Fashion Designer, a social entrepreneur and a farmer (Let’s just say I am an Industrialist).

When did you start writing and how has your writing evolved over the years?

I started writing when I was 16, that was 14 years ago. I believe with age comes a different outlook to life, people and things. And of course our experiences along the way and how we’ve been able to navigate through life and it’s numerous circumstances and indeed success, all this have shaped the way I write over the years.

Like you mentioned earlier, you are a writer, coach, marketing strategy consultant, industrialist, agropreneur. How in the world do you manage all these effectively?

I manage them basically by having little to no social life (Chuckles). It’s been a journey of hardcore dedication, tenacity, persistent and a drive towards success

Why did you choose Instagram as your primary platform?

Actually Facebook is my primary platform, I only share some of the things I share on Facebook to Instagram. So you’d find more of my writings on Facebook.

Do you think you were born to be a born writer?

I don’t know if I can say I was born to be a writer, I just know someone took the time to mentor me at the age of 13 by giving me two books a month to read and write my perception of it, and this went on till I was 21. That was the birth of my ability to write really.

What’s your take on the belief that ‘talk is cheap’?

Indeed talk is cheap. I’ve seen quite a number of people who aren’t anything close to what they write. But again, as much as most of what I write were drawn from my daily life experiences, as writers we are also sometimes inspired to write things that does not necessarily mirror who we are, but who we aspire to be. The goal is to keep working towards closing the gap between what you say, what you do and who you are. The goal is to go beyond saying to being.

Tell us two things social media doesn’t know about Eniola?

I am pretty shy outside social media and often avoid the camera. I love Cartoons 

Do you have an author crush?  If yes please tell us who?

Oh yes, quite a lot of them though (Chuckles). But I’d stick with John Grisham

Tell us three ways social media has helped your writing career?

Social media has helped my writing career by helping me to first built a platform, then an audience and on the long run referrals.

What do you love most about being a writer?

I love the ability to weave my own stories, which other people can connect with daily.

What is your advice to other writers who want to merge their talent and faith together but don’t know how to start?

Read. Every great writer is first an ardent reader. Find your voice and never do the smoke on screen with it (Own it) if you don’t, chances are you’d find it pretty hard to convince others to. Begin where you are, write your stories and faith, the more you write the better you will become.

What’s your ultimate goal as a writer?

Publish my books and raise a generation of kids who love reading and writing from early ages through my Mae’s Book Club.