The Arc Blog and Podcasts

Guide for Authors on Blog Writing

journalistWe would like to feature your book on the MIP-Arc blog, and would be delighted if you can provide a short text (between 500 and 1000 words) which we could use.

We believe that you as the author personally writing the post makes a difference, as you are the expert on your book. A blog post provides an opportunity for you to highlight the key findings and features of your book in more detail than the standard book jacket or website blurb allows.

Blog posts should be readable and informative, and the aim is to encourage people to seek out the book by highlighting key points of interest.

In a blog post, you can reach beyond your peer group, and the text should be made as accessible and readable as possible with this in mind. Librarians and others outside your specific sub-discipline need to be able to judge whether your book is of relevance to them.

The information here is intended to provide guidance and advice to help you prepare a post.

What should you write in a blog post?

You have probably already produced an overview of your book in its introduction, so one option is to review and re-purpose this.

Or, you could use a Q&A format for the blog post, which is a good way to highlight specific aspects of the book, and which also creates text in short chunks which are easy to scan on screen.

A third option is to produce something completely new, which might be beneficial if you want to bring in something related to the book or to your wider research. For example, you might desire to talk about a related conference presentation or discussion.

Re-purposing the book’s introduction

The introduction to your book is likely to contain a lot of text which can be re-used in a blog post, but it will benefit from a reduction in the word count and some re-ordering. People have short attention spans when assessing content online. They will scan quickly to see whether it’s of interest, so you should start with the most interesting information, presented succinctly. After that, once you have their attention, you can expand on your main points and ideas.

Once you have some basic text, you can expand on it by adding extra content, for example illustrations or photographs, and by providing links to additional information or resources.

Some pointers:

  • Start with a short paragraph explaining why the book is interesting and what the key conclusions are. Make an immediate impact. Hit them with the good stuff first.
  • Follow this up with a few paragraphs expanding on the main ideas and arguments. Draw the reader in and provide a bit of context. Keep it interesting.
  • Include, perhaps, some personal comments about your reactions to your findings. Did something in your research surprise or delight you? Have you had any notable feedback from others that is worth sharing?
  • Aim for clarity and conciseness and keep complex vocabulary to a minimum. The reader may not be a specialist in your field (for example they may be a librarian or bookseller) or they may not have English as their first language.
  • Do not include information about your methodology or a review of how your findings fit into the wider literature. Concentrate on telling your story.
  • Come up with a narrative headline for your blog post, one which conveys your essential message. It is often easier to write the headline last, once your post is complete.

Further reading:

Patrick Dunleavy has a very useful article on Medium about how to convert a journal article into a blog post, which contains some excellent and wide-ranging advice.

Using a Q&A format for your blog post

Many blog posts use a Q&A format, and it’s easy to see why. It provides an onscreen layout that is readily scannable, and the discussion element brings the text to life. It’s also simpler to write, because the questions act as a prompt and help to kick start the process of formulating answers.

For a blog post relating to a scholarly book, try these questions for starters (but feel free to add your own):

Q. What is the main argument presented in your book?

Q. Can you summarize what your book is about? What are its findings?

Q. What inspired you to write this book?

Q. What was the most surprising or exciting thing that you discovered during your research?

Q. What impact do you hope that this book will have?

Q. What are you currently working on?

Further reading:

The LSE blog has a series entitled “Five minutes with…”. The format includes an introductory paragraph, a series of questions, and a short author bio at the end, with links to more information about the book and the author. See, for example:

Five minutes with Paul Dolan (LSE Politics and Policy blog)

Q&A with Bonnie Stewart (LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog)

Also, some American university presses have taken to this format of blogpost. See, for example:

Q&A with Louis Sell (Duke University Press)

Q&A with Afro-Paradise author Christen A. Smith (Illinois University Press)

Writing a blog post from scratch

Writing a completely new piece of text for your blog post is in some ways the hardest thing to do. But it can also be the best option. It gives you the opportunity to talk about one particular aspect of your book, or perhaps something related but which didn’t quite fit into the argument or narrative of the book itself. You might want to write about how your book has been a catalyst for a new direction in your research. Or maybe you have already written a blog post for your own blog? We would be happy to consider republishing an existing blog post, and linking back to the original.

Tips for writing a blog post from scratch:

  • Make it interesting! Why will a reader be drawn to your text? Highlight the best bits.
  • Have a focus, a key idea, and structure the post around that. Make sure the blog post title reflects the main idea.
  • Have an idea of what you want the reader to do once they have read the post. Do you want them to click through to more information about the book, or to buy it? Do you want to direct them to further reading or supplementary material? Do you want them to find out more about you and your research? Add links that enable this.

For an example, see:

Eleanor Parker’s post on Anglo-Saxon Calendars

General blog post tips:

  • Short paragraphs are good, as are short sentences and bullet pointed lists. Remember that people want to quickly scan the text before deciding whether it’s worth spending time reading in more detail.
  • Include keywords that are relevant to your argument, but not to the extent of damaging the readability of your text. Concentrate on conveying your message and making your meaning clear.
  • Add links to related information or online resources. Google judges the quality of blog posts partly on which other online information they link to (and which link back to them). Links to university pages are particularly valuable.
  • Add images or photographs. Visual elements make the post more attractive to the eye and help to break the text down into smaller, scannable chunks.
  • Tell people about your post by sharing a link on Twitter or Facebook or other networks. If you tweet, include a hashtag such as #twitterstorians to broaden your reach.

What to do next

If you would like to write some text for a blog post, please do, and send it to us. If we think it is ready to go we will post it as it is. Or we may suggest some additions or revisions if appropriate. We are happy to provide further advice if required.