First things first, I accept that blog-pire isn’t a word. Second things first, I want to start today’s post with an oath: I never sit at my computer hitting refresh on my blog stats tracker, hoping that a thousand new hits will magically appear in the time it takes my page to reload.

I swear.

Anyway, while I was at my computer a few days ago, working away on my synopsis and definitely not even looking at my stats dashboard, I had an idea. Why not interview successful bloggers on how they’ve built up their platform so well? Brilliant? My mum thinks so. And so without further ado, I present an interview with Brenda Drake, creator of Brenda Drake Writes… under the influence of coffee.
Recognise it? You should, because it’s a wealth of inspiration for any aspiring blogger. Her latest contest, posted only hours ago, already has nearly 200 entries. She has 986 followers on Google Friend Connect and Networked Blogs. And her page-views are sitting at a tidy one-hundred-and-sixty-four-thousand, four-hundred-and-seven! I can’t even say that number aloud without needing to stop for a breather. So how does she do it? Brenda, you tell us…

Thanks Kat. I hadn’t a clue what to do when I first started blogging. That first year, I think I only posted nine times. But during that time, I read and commented on other blogs — followed and gained followers. I happened upon blogfests and participated in some and held some of mine own. I hosted a contest to generate more followers, and found I enjoyed them. I loved the excitement and how the community came together to help each other with their work. That’s when I decided to dedicate my efforts to holding contests and workshops.

Running contests are a lot of work, but the rewards are amazing. I remember how nervous I was to show anyone my work when I first came out of my writing cave, but I had entered contests and each time I made it into them, I felt that maybe my writing really didn’t suck that bad. When you enter a contest, you don’t have to tell anyone you joined, especially if you don’t make the cut. But when you make the cut, you feel your work is finally good enough.

I do give away books sometimes in between contests and workshops for writers who’ve asked. I think caring and being genuine helps to get followers coming back. Offering things your followers can use or learn from is the key. Most importantly, posting frequently is important. I’ve skipped over blogs and never gone back to them because they hadn’t posted in months. I follow back. You reap what you sow.

People always ask how I got agents to participate in contests. It’s really simple, I ask. I use a catchy (non-spammer type) email to pique their interests, and they really are kind and will usually answer. Also, it helps when the contest has a fun concept and if you generate buzz for the contest. Once they join in, I brag and praise them on Twitter and my blog.

Awesome – I bet my four followers are rushing out to try it now! Anyway in that first year, did you gain many followers from just commenting on other blogs? Or did you have to interact with people and let them know you’d followed them and find that some followed you back?

I did, but it was slow moving. I never told anyone I followed them. I would just follow and comment on their recent post. Most times, they followed back. I’m less likely to follow a blog if I have to do it by email. My email gets clogged. I prefer having a linky to sign up on. That way I can go through my Blogger feed or my Networked Blogs feed, skim the titles, and read the posts that interest me. Making it convenient for your readers is key. 

Did you have many followers when you started running your own blogfests? If not, how did you get people involved?

I first participated in others’ blogfests. I’d follow everyone in the blogfest and comment on their entry. When I felt I had enough followers, I ran my own blogfest. It was during my blogfests that I noticed a spike of participants when I had them enter something from their manuscripts. Writers love to get help with their writing, I do, anyway. I soon offered prizes and my follower list grew.

Did you learn any specific tricks about what makes a good contest? 

I think the buzz. You have to get the buzz going on Twitter and any social media where you have friends/followers. I tweet about my contests during prime times and thank whoever retweets. Except lately, some of my contests generate so many retweets I can’t possibly thank everyone or I’ll bug my followers. So I’ll do a blanket ‘thank you’. I try to be gracious and humble. And, if I have time and know the answer, I’ll help writers out.

And finally, you tell me you’ve got your own book coming out in 2014. Care to give us a quick blurb?

Sure. LIBRARY JUMPERS is about sixteen-year-old, Gia Kearns, who discovers that with a simple flip of a page she can transport into any library of her choosing, thus thrusting her into a Mystik world, hidden behind the bookcases of the greatest libraries in the world, where evil abounds, secrets unfold, and mortals are running out of time.

Wow, wow, wow. Can I just say I already want to live in that book? Best of luck, and thank you for your wise words today. To anyone reading this, feel free to post any questions and I’ll chase up the answers. I’m also planning a series of interviews with other successful bloggers, so stay tuned for more. And if you can help me spread the word, I’ll love you all to the end of days!