One of my favorite bloggers, The Amateur Gourmet, aka Adam Roberts, just came out with his ten rules for food blogging. The Amateur Gourmet was one of the first food blogs that I started reading, and I love Adam’s witty style of writing. I even bought his book, also named The Amateur Gourmet, as a gift for Josh, as I think some of his stories hilariously match up with some of our own experiences (particularly those relating to his mother!).
In hopes of having some sort of success with my own blog, I’m taking Adam’s rules to heart:
1. Have a hook. That hook might be cooking your way through a cookbook, deriding disastrous cakes, or advising fellow workers on where to eat in midtown.
This piece of advice was also given to me by a classmate from high school who has since become a published food writer. With so many blogs out there, you need to carve out a niche in order to stand out. I’m still trying to find mine, though it’s been tough. Lots of my favorite bloggers are hungry Asian girls, just like myself. I’m basically just an untrained amateur cook who loves to eat. I’m the first to admit that this blog is neither unique nor special, but I would like it to be! Anyone have suggestions on something that I can focus on to help make Two Fat Bellies more noticeable in the food blogging community?
2. If you don’t have a hook, have a name. Like this guy or this guy, both of whom made a name for themselves in the food world before starting a food blog.
This is kind of a strange rule, as most people don’t “have a name” before embarking in the food blogging realm. I’m definitely not famous, nor do I plan on giving my name out anytime soon. Even though Josh and I aren’t exactly in hiding, and I do talk about tidbits from our personal lives, we do refrain from stating our full names or posting pictures of ourselves so that we can retain some anonymity right now. That might change in the future, maybe as we (hopefully) gain more exposure.
3. If you don’t have a name, have a singular, stand-out voice that’s unlike any other voice out there.
I’m not sure what is meant by a “stand-out” voice. I do have a particular writing style that I’ve carried since my days as a sports writer for my college newspaper, but I also take on a more casual tone in my blog posts. I’m definitely less formal in my posts and try write like how I would speak, if I didn’t have a fear of public speaking.
4. If you don’t have a singular, stand-out voice, take beautiful pictures of beautiful food and include recipes.
I definitely do take a lot of pictures, though that’s something I’ve been struggling with lately. We recently bought an SLR so there may have been some improvements in our photos as of late but we’re still learning how to use it. We have a lot of trouble when it’s really dark inside a restaurant, but I try not use flash, unless it’s appropriate for the venue.
However, I felt very conspicuous busting out a big SLR in restaurants such as Daniel, Aureole, and A Voce Columbus. Those are places where we definitely don’t use flash yet I still feel uncomfortable clicking away sometimes. I try to do it discreetly but when you have servers hovering over you constantly, it’s hard to prevent them from noticing. I don’t know if that results in better or worse treatment for us, but fortunately we haven’t run into any issues yet.
With regard to recipes, I haven’t posted any full ingredient lists and line by line instructions because that’s just not my style. I rarely follow any recipe to letter, and when I do, I don’t feel right posting someone else’s recipe so I’ll either link to it or just refer to the book that I used. I don’t want to run into any copyright issues or try to take credit for something that I didn’t create. To the lawyers who read this blog, are there any repercussions to posting someone else’s recipe, even if I give credit where it’s due?
5. Update frequently, at least three times a week. Even if you’re not a great photographer, include pictures in your posts; preferably, a lead picture at the top and several illustrative pictures studded throughout. (Edit these pictures in Photoshop, for maximum effect.)
I generally do post at least three times a week, though I aim for more. At one point I was posting almost every day but I’ve come to realize just how tough it is, given my current workload and general state of mind.
With much encouragement from Josh, I started this blog almost a year ago as an outlet for some of my frustrations at the time. I was having trouble figuring out what I wanted to do with my life and what I was truly passionate about, and the only thing that came to mind was food. But I wasn’t (and still am not) ready to make food a career choice, so this blog was the next best thing. It was a way for me to keep in touch with the world of food and to hone my writing skills. It wasn’t meant to become a second job for me.
There are times when I stress over the fact that I’m not posting enough, or that my posts are poorly written and uninteresting, and that’s when I start to pull back from the blog a bit. Writing this blog was meant to be a hobby for me, and an enjoyable one at that. When it starts to become to taxing and stressful, then it ruins my purpose of having a blog in the first place.
Overall I do love having Two Fat Bellies and enjoy writing posts for the site. I take a lot of pride in my hard work, and I do hope that people recognize that it’s not always easy to keep updating. But your encouragement and support really does mean a lot to me and definitely helps me to push through when things start to get tough. The last people I want to disappoint are my readers, and that provides a lot of motivation too.
6. Spend time on the design of your blog. If you’re not a design person, pay a designer to make it look great. It’s a worthwhile investment.
We did make a conscious effort to redesign our site after our initial WordPress template launch. We commissioned our good friend John to design our top banner and we absolutely love it, so we don’t plan on changing it anytime soon. I guess we could be fancier with the fonts and stuff, but I think everything is pretty straightforward and easy to read through. Maybe our next project will be to clean up the tags, since there are a lot of them right now!
7. Interact with your readers. Prompt them for comments, acknowledge their comments in your later posts.
Please comment!! I love comments! Even critical ones, as they’ll only help me to make the blog better. We do take your comments to heart, and we definitely try to respond to comments where appropriate.
8. Offer your readers various ways to read your blog: syndicate your blog through RSS, send it out over e-mail, if you’re techno savvy (and I’m not) create an iPhone app.
I’m definitely not tech saavy, and am impressed that I’ve simply learned how to put up posts by myself. I’m going to pass this rule on to Josh, as he runs the technical side of this blog.
9. Tweet. Nowadays, a great way to call attention to your blog and what you’re blogging about is Twitter. Build up a large Twitter following and then link to your posts when you write them.
This rule is a tough one, as Josh and I are famous in our group for avoiding social networking. We don’t have Facebook accounts and we don’t use Twitter. Sometimes, I don’t even check my personal email for days. Not purposely, but the only time I can use these sites is from home, as they’re all blocked at my office. When I have a rough day at work, the last thing I want to do when I get home is jump on the computer, since I stare at one all day. But maybe it’s time for us to stop shunning social networking, as it’s definitely a good way for us to try to gain some more exposure and get a few followers. Perhaps we can compromise and just use it for blog promotional purposes, rather than for cyberstalking former classmates (though the temptation will always be there!). What do you guys think?
10. Be exuberant. No one wants to read a shoulder-shrugging blogger. If you’re passionate, you’ll get a passionate response.
I admit, sometimes I do shoulder shrug when I write up a restaurant review. There are times when I absolutely love a place and I’ll rave about it. And there are also times when I absolutely hate a place, and I’ll tell you exactly why. But for the most part, a lot of restaurants do garner a shoulder shrug reaction. They’re either good but not great, or they’re bad but not awful. I don’t keep it so black and white because if I go back to a restaurant that I tell my readers was terrible, doesn’t that make me a hypocrite?
For the most part, a lot of where we eat is dictated by our budgeting constraints. I would love to eat at three star Michelin restaurants all the time (now THAT would be a cool niche to corner the market in!) but it’s just not realistic. Right now we’re eating at and posting about places that are easily accessible to ordinary New Yorkers who don’t have a huge amount of disposable income. When we do get to go to interesting or upscale places, I’m excited to post about them and you can probably tell that based on my reaction to the experience, good or bad.
But I’ll definitely try to be more decisive from now on. Just please don’t take any lukewarm reactions to certain restaurants to mean that I’m not passionate about eating (and I’ve got the fat belly to prove it)!