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. 

 

#WriterSpotlight – “Being a writer means that you must continue to reinvent yourself.” Akinola Ajani

It’s Thursday and it’s time for another #WriterSpotlight feature! Today we have Akinola Ajani who is the author of the first Nigerian counter-terrorism novel. How cool is that? What’s more amazing is the fact that his books are sold in popular bookstores across the UK like Waterstones and WH Smith. We don’t know about you but we were definitely eager to find out how he was able to achieve this. He bares it all in his interview with us! 

Hello Akinola, please introduce yourself.

I’m Akinola Ajani, a Nigerian author, freelance writer, and poet, the author of Nigeria’s first counter-terrorism novel Operation Game Change published in March 2014.

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

I started writing when I was eleven years old. Most of the stories were fables told to me by my grandfather who was a master storyteller. I honed my craft over the years, improving my creative imagination and my understanding of the language through constant practice. I started out writing about past events and personal experiences but I’m more of a fiction writer now as I find more fulfillment in exploring the boundless limits of my imagination

How rewarding has writing been for you?

Writing has been quite rewarding, there are lots of opportunities to work as a freelance writer and earn a substantial income. There are domestic and international contests with attractive prizes and strategic publishing with the right marketing angle can yield amazing rewards financially. Being a writer means that you must continue to reinvent yourself, what it means to be a writer today is a lot different from what it meant a decade ago.

Do you think you were born to be a writer?

I would say I was born to be a writer but it’s not that straightforward. Writing is not just a profession, it is a calling. There is a strong bond between myself and my pen, so profound that nothing can get in the way.

Your book ‘Operation Game Change’ is a counter-terrorism novel. Why did you choose to write on this subject?

Operation Game Change is Nigeria’s first counter-terrorism novel and I wrote it at a time when Nigeria was struggling to cope with the scourge of terrorism in the north-east. As a country, we had little experience in dealing with terrorists and we found ourselves in an embarrassing situation with terrorists able to hit targets that were hitherto thought to be secure. We didn’t respond well because we didn’t know how to. Our armed forces are better suited to open warfare against known enemies and terrorism is the direct opposite. Terrorists fare better in urban warfare, small unit tactics and covert operations. I looked at the situation and saw the need to take a page out of the sustained counter-terrorism campaigns carried out by the countries like the United States in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, disaster. The role of technology in fighting corruption cannot be overemphasized as it helps to gather intel and stay one step ahead of the enemy. In Operation Game Change, I proffered solutions to the menace of terrorism and pointed out some of the angles that require more attention as far as Nigeria’s counter-terrorism strategy is concerned

How has the reception for your book been?

The book has been well received in some quarters but domestically, the reception leaves quite a lot to be desired. Operation Game Change was well received in France and the United Kingdom and I have positive feedback from fans in those regions.

How much did reading help shape your love for writing?

Reading has played perhaps the biggest role in my writing career to date. There is a lesson in every story, every writer shares a piece of their soul in their stories and that can open your eyes to better create your own. A book allows you to go into the writer’s mind and marvel at their creativity while picking up bits that can help you write in a different way or improve your understanding of grammar, expand your vocabulary or give you a better picture of certain things that you can call on from your subconscious when you’re writing. I feel compelled to try to write stories as compelling and engaging as some of the books I have read and I’m still trying to outdo some of my role models.

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

Social media has helped my writing career in a number of ways. It gives me access to platforms where I can meet other writers and form short-term and long-term professional relationships. It also provides avenues to learn more about writing on relevant blogs and websites. It serves as an information hub where I learn about current writing contests, freelance writing opportunities, and publishing packages.

What do you love most about being an author?

Being an author gives me the opportunity to talk about my book and its subject matter on many online and offline platforms. It is a privilege to be regarded as an expert on a particular issue and a lot of people are willing to listen to what I have to say about terrorism in Nigeria and writing in general. It also opens doors to connect with other authors.

How easy was it for you to find a publisher and what was your experience like?

It was quite easy to find a publisher as I belong to an international writing platform that makes it easy to reach publishers. The experience was quite interesting as it opened my eyes to the inner workings of professional publishing. I had a consultant for every aspect of the book from interior design to marketing, cover creation, and final printing.

Who are your favourite authors and why?

My favourite authors are Mario Puzo, Nora Roberts, and Chimamanda Adichie. Mario Puzo’s books depict an intriguing yet undeniably dangerous time in history and his masterful storytelling transforms the Italian mafia from a criminal cartel to a folklore reference point. Nora Roberts writes with the ease of a graceful Olympic swimmer, she maintains the flow from beginning to the end. Chimamanda Adichie’s wit is as impressive as her courage and undeniable fondness for her roots and the stories that make Africa what it truly is.

What has writing taught you?

Writing shows me that I can live twice; in the moment and in retrospect. I can live three, four lives in the same story and end up dead in all of them. It taught me that I can’t control a story entirely without the characters getting in the way. Writing also showed me that words can make you feel things you didn’t even know existed. You can close your eyes to the things you don’t want to see but you can’t close your heart, your feelings know you better than anything else.

If you could change three things about Nigeria through your pen what would they be?

If I could change three things with my pen in Nigeria, I would say Domestic Violence, Child Abuse, and Corruption.

What do you love about The Sparkle Writers Hub?

The Sparkle Writers Hub is a platform that constantly seeks to improve writers by exposing them to the various aspects of the profession. It brings writers closer to their writing goals and encourages them to keep going despite the odds against them. Its mission is to equip writers as much as possible to enable them to maximise the rewards and opportunities available in the writing profession.

What’s your advice to somebody who loves to write but doesn’t know how to start?

It is important to remember that there will always be better writers out there but nobody else has lived your life and the world deserves to hear your story. Writing requires courage and sometimes, self-doubt is a difficult obstacle to surmount but we’re all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master and that includes you.

Akinola’s book, Operation Game Change, can be purchased from Barnes and Noble, Waterstones, Ebay, Indigo, WH Smith, and Amazon.

 

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 ‘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!  

Your blog readers mean much more than you think

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How many times do bloggers try so hard to get more readers, get more likes, more shares and more comments.

Countless number of times. All in a bid to have a great blog. All these are good but one of the most important aspects of your blog is are your readers.

Can you imagine producing great content day in day out for your readers. Every time you publish a blog post, there is a tribe waiting to read and if possible comment and share. In no distant future you will increase your followers, readers and community because those people will share the content they love with their friends. 

However if you focus on just promoting posts, begging people to follow you, you may not get that. large following. 

When people love what they see and notice that you are consistent they will advertise your blog for you. 

Don’t focus on having a great blog. Focus on producing a blog that’s great for your readers. Identify what your readers want, like and need and stick to it. Your followership will increase in leaps and bounds.