Those of you who read the blog regularly know that every week for our Top Picks Thursday feature the five of us gather recent blog posts that we enjoyed or that provided valuable news, tips, and information for writers. Although Nancy Keim Comley and I sometimes compile the gathered posts for Top Picks Thursday, Kerry Gans usually puts the post together and does a stellar job of it. And she’s been doing so for more than four years!
We first published Top Picks Thursday on June 2, 2011. Finding blog posts to include in our feature has required reading a lot of blogs during the past four years. I find most of my contributions through Twitter, and even though I read numerous posts on the same topics — writer’s block or self-editing, for instance — I find reinforcement or new tips or a new perspective on the topics, which makes reading new posts valuable. After all, a writer is always learning.
I do not, however, put every post I read on my list for that week’s Top Picks Thursday. I don’t include posts about personal life or experiences unrelated to writing. Glaring errors in grammar and spelling (which shows the blogger either didn’t know the correct forms or didn’t take the time to proofread) can make me decide not to recommend a post, as can a lack of clarity. And, while authors shouldn’t neglect to give their work a plug — in the sidebar or at the beginning or end of a post — too much self-promotion is a turn-off.
Another thing that can make me disregard a blog post is a pop-up or a pop-out. Pop-ups, which are requests for a reader’s name and email address that appear somewhere over the blog post (so that the writer can send the reader newsletters or special offers or promotional material), are more common.
Pop-outs come out from the side and offer a reader a way to click and share on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other sites. It’s more common to have these buttons at the end of a post, but some sites have them pop-out from the side. Most of the time pop-outs provide a convenience for readers; however, on a few sites, irritating pop-outs cover the beginning of all but a couple lines of the blog entry, making it difficult to read. If a post is difficult to read, I don’t feel right including it on my Top Picks Thursday list.
Pop-ups can be even more problematic. I understand why writers use them. Any writer who reads posts about social media or who attends classes, workshops, conferences, or conventions hears from social media gurus and successful published authors that an email list is a more effective marketing tool than Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or other social media sites. As a result, a number of writers ask visitors to their website or blog to sign up on their email newsletter lists. Sometimes a bonus, such as a free story or book, is given for signing up. On many blogs, this request is in the sidebar (you can see ours in the sidebar at the right) or at the end of the post. More and more, however, I run into the request in pop-ups.
I admit to finding pop-ups annoying, but I’m not totally against them and have included on my Top Picks Thursday list some blog posts with small pop-ups that show up at the end of the post. I have no patience, however, with those that appear before the end of the post. I can understand a writer asking me to sign up for her or his email list if I’ve read all the way to the end of the post, but I object to having my reading interrupted after I’ve only had the chance to read two paragraphs. How am I expected to know if I want to join an author’s email list before I’ve had a chance to read the whole blog post?
Even more aggravating are the pop-ups that materialize before I’ve had a chance to read one word on the site. These pop-ups usually cover the entire page as well. When bombarded with such a pop-up, I react by closing the tab. If a blogger cannot wait for me to read the post before asking for my email address, I am unwilling to take the time to read the post or to recommend it to our readers.
My point in this post is not just to explain how I choose posts for Top Picks Thursday. I hope to inspire writers to consider how they are handling their websites and blogs. Remember that less is more. Not only does too much or too blatant promotional material make people cringe, but how you try to connect with readers is important. A request for the reader to sign up for an email list in a sidebar, at the end of a post, or in a small pop-up that appears at the end of a post is more respectful of a reader than a huge, demanding pop-up. Be kind to your readers. A pop-up or a pop-out should never cover the blog post or make reading it hard.
I’d really like to hear other people’s opinions about pop-ups, email lists, and social media marketing in general. In all honesty, I don’t sign up for email lists. I used to, but I couldn’t keep up with all the email. Since email marketing isn’t going to work on me and I don’t respond to marketing on other social media either, maybe I’m not a good person to use as an example. Please share your thoughts.
How do you feel about social media marketing? Are you annoyed by pop-ups? Do you sign up for email lists? Is social media marketing effective in getting you to buy books?
For authors and bloggers:
Do you use pop-ups on your blog or website? Do you find them effective? Do your email newsletters drive sales?