How to Host a Writer’s Blogfest
Choosing a Topic
A great topic can make or break a blogfest. Too specific, and no one enters. To obscure, and no one has anything that applies. Too general, then you’re flooded with entries and spend six days reading them all. Here are some general areas to consider (definitely not exhaustive, use your imagination):
- Writing Skills – Dialog, description, exposition, POV, characterization, blurbs
- Story moments – Romantic moments, challenges, ordeals, beginnings, ends, reversals, surprises, conflict
- Characters – Good guys, bad guys, demons, angels, lovers, haters, the young, the old
- Topical – Fighting, kissing, mentoring, self-sacrifice, sex, settings (kitchen, bar, beach are recent examples), props, drinking, cheating
- Concepts – Specific moods, emotions, words, feelings, relationships
I would stay away from anything genre-specific like “Urban Vampire vs Zombies Blogfest.” Leave it open-ended enough that you don’t exclude tons of people. But it can be a little bit restrictive to make it challenging and fun.
One thing I did was that I created a poll asking people which blogfest they would like to see, which helped me choose the most interesting idea.
Setting a Date
So you have a great blogfest idea and can’t wait, so you make it next Tuesday. Don’t. You want to give yourself enough time to publicize your blogfest. I would suggest a minimum of a month from the time you announce it and open sign-ups.
Also, various blogs (including mine) maintain lists of upcoming blogfests. People get worn out! Try to schedule yours at least a week away from any others. You want your blogfest to be special, don’t you?
I’d also suggest avoiding early in the week when people are swamped with work. But I don’t have any empirical evidence to support this. I guess figure out a day that will allow you to spend the day reading everyone else’s entries (which as the host is part of your responsibility).
Create the “Blogfest”
You will need a way for people to “sign up” for your blogfest. Personally I don’t sign up until the day-of because
a) I want to make sure I actually get to do it and
b) I want to add the actual link to my entry.
But you want people to sign up right away if they want to. I’ve seen Mr. Linky and Simply Linked be used, but I don’t love either.
When you create the announcement post, stick to the point. “Here’s my blogfest. These are my general guidelines. Here are the rules [which I’ll address below]. Here’s the sign-up form.” I’ve seen blogfests that don’t even have the word “blogfest” in their title. Then it rambles on for two pages about their kid’s rabbit before getting to the point. Lame. This is the entry that people will link to in their own blogs. Make it somewhat professional.
Rules? We don’t need no stinking rules!
Yes, you do. Here are the required rules:
- Bloggers must sign up by or on the date of the blogfest.
- Their blogfest entry must link back to the signup post so people can find the other entries.
Everything else is up to you. Here are some suggestions.
- Word count. Encourage people to keep their entries short, because people generally shy away from long entries, no matter how good they are.
- Commenting. Encourage people to comment on everything they read, good or bad. Honesty helps each blogger way more than empty praise.
- Ask for people to help publicize the blogfest [more below]. Or demand it.
- Ask for followers! Don’t be shy!
- Encourage people to submit an entry even if it isn’t that good. The more the merrier.
- Blogfest-specific rules. Any words they must use? Any types of characters or specific props? A specific setting or mood?
The best way to publicize a blogfest is by having tons of followers on your social network. This post does not cover how to accomplish that. But given your social network, here are some things to do:
- Create badges so people can put them on their blogs and web sites.
- Put links all over your blog and websites so people can’t possible miss the sign-up form.
- Make sure people who maintain blogfest lists (like me) are notified. A comment on their latest post is sufficient.
- Create a Facebook event. Tweet the event announcement. Repeatedly.
- Make your “announcement” post appealing and clear, with easy-to-follow rules and requirements.
- Participate in other blogfests, and comment on as many entries as you can. People who participate in one blogfest are likely to participate in others.
- Mention it whenever you can (without being annoying). Or be annoying. People will forgive you. (please forgive me).
- Guest blog, write a series of posts about your blogfest topic, send out invitations, whatever floats your boat.
- Rewards! Turn your blogfest into a contest or sweepstakes, where you either choose the best entries or conduct a random drawing so that a few people are rewarded for their efforts. Personally I consider this cheating, people should want to participate because it’s fun, but it does add a bit of drama to it.
Whatever you do, remember that hosting a blogfest is all about having fun and meeting a lot of other writers. On the day of the event, make sure your entry is up, then start commenting! A personal comment from the host is wonderful!
And of course, the wonderful Lilah Pierce essentially made the exact same post as this one a few days ago but I tried not to read it. I still want to give her credit for posting her guidelines first, and you should definitely check her ideas out as well.
Good luck, and happy blogfesting!