Friday, April 16, 2010

Garden Design + Blogging Ghostwriters

Five years ago I created the Tuin van Mariënhof garden blog for my friends Jeannette and Meinoud. It all started when I learned that they planned to open the gate to the garden of their monumental estate de Mariënhof to paying visitors. All they had at the time was a simple flier. That they would attract many more interested people if they had an Internet presence was obvious. At the time I had just launched my website DutchessAbroad as well as my blog Hope Filled Jars. I caught the blogging bug and was ready to spread the luv.

An avid gardener myself I derived great joy from finding relevant information to link to the posts I created from their email, intermittently adding my own content. Since I posted all texts —whether derived from my friends' email messages (heavily edited by me) or my own material— in first person plural (we, the landlords of this formidable estate) I basically operated as ghostwriter.

While I loved every minute (or rather the many hours) spent on the content of the garden blog, I often wondered why hardly anyone responded. To be honest, there was only one person (a blogger on the isle of Texel) who engaged in a conversation with me, the writer. Were the readers on to something?

Per definition ghostwriters don't get credit for what they write, it's the client who attracts all attention. In a way the role of a ghostwriter is comparable to that of a landscape architect, or a professional gardener. An important difference however, is that the designer of the lay-out of the grounds will receive credit for his or her work. The same is true of the gardeners who maintain the yard, prune trees & bushes, and keep plants bug free. People are after all always happy to brag about their hired help, unless the help is a ghostwriter.

Comments are feathers on a blogger's hat, the art of blogging is after all dialogue. Visitors of a blog address their comments to the person who "speaks to them", the voice that tells the stories. Usually that's the blogger. If readers feel engaged, if they wish to lead others to their own blog or website, or if they just want to give a thumbs up, they'll respond by leaving a comment on the blog itself.

However, if there's a discrepancy between writer and the storyteller, visitors may send their comments directly to the latter's email address, rather than honoring the writer and the storyteller at the same time by leaving a comment on the blog. A paid-for ghostwriter will live with that knowledge, she after all pockets praise in another form. How well a blogger is paid depends on the value that's put on the writing.

Think it's a goldmine? Consider the fees published by Nicola for blog post subscriptions:
1 post per month $26
4 posts per month, once a week at $24 per post
8 posts per months, two per week at $22 per post

For me blogging about the Mariënhof was not a lucrative enterprise; it was a way to help my friends, and to maintain a virtual garden in my home country. Today their email messages (heavily edited by me) combined with my own contributions add up to 260 posts. Whether browsers are looking for a picture of a blossom of a hazelnut tree, or the architectural feature inspired by Acanthus, Google will take them to the blog of an estate in a hamlet in the countryside north of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

It's time for yours truly to focus on her own blogs and most important her book, about art, nuts and love in a cold climate.

As for readers enticing readers to post comments, I'll be working on the art of blogging/ dialogue here, at Write Day-in Day-Out, at Hope Filled Jars and occasionally at SheWrites or ExpatHAREM, and of course I'll be posting comments on blogs of participants of Dialogue2010 and other writers.