Probably the thing that has taken the most stress out my blogging is an editorial calendar. When I wrote blog posts daily I would get anxious about what I would post and sometimes I just couldn't come up with a good topic on the spot, which meant no new blog post for the day. Now that I do most of the week's post on the weekend, the editorial calendar has become invaluable.
If you have been flying by the seat of your pants, you may want to start with a weekly schedule. However, I find mapping a month's worth of content to be the most beneficial. I like to use Google Calendar because I can access it anywhere and I can embed it on the blog.
First, schedule any regular features you regularly do. Do you participate in weekly memes like Tuesday Teaser or Waiting on Wednesday? If possible, decide at the beginning of the month what book you will feature in that meme each week.
Do you have other regular content you feature on a certain day each month? I know each week I will do a tips post so I can already slot them on to the calendar. I also know that during the first week of the month I will do a New Releases post so I go ahead and put that on the calendar. For the tips post I try to determine the topics for each week, but sometimes I wing it.
Now that you have your weekly features dates blocked off, you can schedule guest posts/interviews as well as tours. Knowing in advance what dates you have open will help you not overbook your blog. I try to post once a day, but I have on occasion accidentally booked two guest posts because I didn't keep my calendar up-to-date.
I like to have my calendar embedded on my blog because authors who are looking for dates to appear on Girl Who Reads can easily see what dates are available.
Pencil in Your Reviews
I don't usually guarantee a date for reviews to appear, but if you do setting a calendar will help you keep track of what you need to be preparing. I like to make sure I have at least one review post each week. This isn't difficult now that I have a staff reviewer, instead I need to make sure we both get our pending reviews out in a timely manner. If I'm reading a book that hasn't come out yet, I will shoot for posting the review the day of or the same week it releases, if possible. So I like to mark them on the calendar. It helps keep me organized and when I have a backlog of reviews to write, it lets me know which ones I need to tackle first.
What to Do With Blank Dates
Between regular features, guest posts/tours, and reviews the bulk of your content for the month should be scheduled. But what if you have dates with nothing scheduled? If you don't want to do a new post every day then having unscheduled dates is perfectly acceptable. If you are like me and want a new post every week day, or maybe you are real ambitious and want to post new content 7 days a week, then you need to decide what you can fill those dates with. If it is just a handful of dates that I don't already have scheduled or they are mostly towards the end of the month, then I will leave them blank to allow for authors who contact me last minute about a guest post spot. If there are a lot of blank dates or they are at the first part of the month, then I come up with content ideas.
The new service I'm offering to authors will help bloggers fill in those blank dates (or for when a guest forgets to send in their post!) by providing ready made content - excerpts, interviews, and guest posts. You can learn more about it and how to sign up to get the info in last week's post.
I'm also signed up for a couple of newsletters from Goodreads, which I glean content from. One of these is the Young Adult newsletter that shows that month's most popular young adult novels. I've also tried out posting book trailers and more recently video interviews. Most of the major publishers have Youtube channels where you can find all kinds of video goodies to embed on your blog.
Blank dates can be a great opportunity to experiment with content. Try out something different and if it is a hit with your readers see about fitting it onto next month's calendar.
Why Should You Set an Editorial Calendar?
In May, new content was posted everyday (yes, 7 days a week). It was a huge undertaking, but because I had my calendar it was actually pretty easy to accomplish. There are usually no surprises when you have a calendar. You know what's due when and can send reminders to any guests you have coming up. So, number one reason I think you should set a calendar is to reduce your stress.
A second reason, which is related to the first, regularly posting new content will increase your traffic. My numbers skyrocketed in May. June, when I pulled back to just posting 5 days a week, wasn't as spectacular, but the last part of June really picked up and it is continuing into July. Knowing what you are going to post each day helps with keeping a regular schedule.
A third reason, and very important if you have multiple contributors, a calendar will keep everyone on the same page. They will know when their stuff will appear so they can be prepared to help promote it.
A fourth reason, knowing what needs to be posted and when will allow you to schedule posts in advance. It's great when you are going on vacation or if things get a bit busy in life. You will no longer be slave to your blog or faced with the dilemma of not posting just because you either didn't know what to post or didn't have time to post.
Stress is a leading factor in blogging burnout. I have found having an editorial calendar helps reduce blogging related stress.
Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour. She reads most genres (NO horror or erotica), but her favorite books are psychological thrillers and stories that highlight the survival of the human spirit against unbelievable circumstances.