Reblogging Etiquette

Reblogging Etiquette

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Lately I’ve seen some bloggers wondering what the etiquette should be around reblogging (blogging something previously posted on another blog).

Before I get into the tips, let me say that I think re-blogging can be useful.

If you’re being reblogged, it’s an honor that someone found your content worthy of sharing with their followers, and it can extend your reach and bring people back to your site without the effort of guest posting. If you’re the reblogger, it can sometimes be a lifesaver in terms of getting content up on your site when your week has fallen to pieces. Plus, you’re providing your readers a service through vetting material for them and bringing them the best.

If done incorrectly, though, reblogging flirts with the line of plagiarism. You don’t want to flirt with plagiarism. She carries some really nasty diseases.

So how can we reblog in a professional, mutually beneficial way?

Ask First

Unless you know that the blogger doesn’t mind others reblogging their content, always ask first. (Kristen Lamb, for example, has an open policy on reblogging. If you want to reblog any of her material, all she asks is that you link back to her site and give her proper credit. You don’t need to get permission first.)

With all the social media options available, it’s not that hard to reach a blogger anymore. If I don’t respond to a comment on this blog right away, you can usually catch me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or through email. I know that we’ve entered an age of instant gratification, but patience is still a virtue. I try to answer all requests and emails as promptly as possible, but I have to prioritize my paying work and my life over social media so you might have a delay. If you don’t receive a response after a week, assume my spam file ate it and try again.

You should do more than just ask permission though. Not all reblogging is created equal. Find out the format the original blogger prefers. Are they alright with you copying the entire post onto your site? Or would they prefer you copy only the first couple of paragraphs with a link back to the full article?

Why does the format of the reblogging matter?

Comments – While I can’t speak for every blogger, I like to try to reply to comments on my post. If my post is appearing in full someplace else, chances are good I won’t be able to monitor the comments there as well as on my own site. With a guest post, you’re able to plan in advance. With a reblog, unlike with a regular guest post, I haven’t planned the extra social media time into my day to be able to check and reply to comments on two (or more) sites where my content is appearing.

Site Stats – If you’re a writer who’s blogging as part of building a platform, your site stats matter. They can influence whether you get an agent, whether people take you seriously, and (if you choose) whether you can eventually sell ad space on your site. The click-through rate for a post reblogged in full is much lower than for a partial repost with a link.

Common Courtesy – A good blog posts takes me 1-3 hours to write, depending on the complexity of the topic and the amount of research necessary. While I’m happy to share and to help, I’ve made significant sacrifices to produce my content, and I believe that still gives me the right to decide when and how it’s used.

My personal policy is that people can post the first couple of paragraphs and a link back to the full post without asking. If you want to post the full piece and don’t ask first, and I catch you at it, I will ask you to take my post off your site. If you wouldn’t borrow someone’s clothes or food or chainsaw without asking, why would it be okay to borrow their written content?

Credit the Original Source

If something goes viral and you find it four people down the chain, go back and reblog from the original site. It’s respectful to the owner of the material, and it’s kind to your reader who won’t want to go back through a chain of sites to find the original source to see if they have more excellent content to read.

What if you follow the chain to a dead end? Part of being a responsible writer is doing your research and exercising due diligence. Run a Google search, and see if you can locate the original poster on your own.

Add An Introduction/Conclusion

If you end up reblogging the content in full, add an original introduction or conclusion telling people not only where you found the content but also why you thought it was worthy of reblogging. What’s the point that resonated the most with you? What do you disagree with?

Have you tried reblogging? What other pieces of etiquette do you think should be observed? Do you think reblogging is a great new trend that can benefit everyone or no better than plagiarism?

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Have You Nominated Your Favorite Blog Yet?

Blog AwardsBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Strangely enough, along with this being the season for Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s also the season for blog contests, and the nominations will soon close for two contests I wanted you to know about.

Nominating a blog you enjoy is one of the best ways to support and encourage that blogger, so please take a few minutes today to enter a blog you love. (I’m hoping some of you will nominate me, but even if you don’t, please nominate someone. I can’t emphasize enough how important awards like these can be to a blogger/writer.)

2012 Canadian Weblog Awards

You don’t need to be a Canadian to nominate a blog. Here’s what their website says, “Anyone, whether they are Canadian or not, can nominate Canadian weblogs, so all of you Canadian-loving non-Canadians can get in there and share your favourites.” (Yes, that’s how we spell favorites in Canada.)

The blog you nominate does need to be written by a Canadian (like me).

Nominations for this one are done privately through an easy-to-fill-out form, and your name will never be released. You can nominate a blog in three categories.

If you’d like to nominate my blog, here are some categories you might want to consider:

  • Best New Weblog (for weblogs created after July 31, 2011 – Mine was “born” November 2011)
  • General Interest (for weblogs that cover a range of topics)
  • Pop Culture & Entertainment
  • Topical (for weblogs that fit within a particular niche not covered by other categories)
  • Writing & Literature

Weblog Title: Marcy Kennedy

Weblog URL:

To nominate a blog, go here:

Nominations close November 31.

7th Annual Top 10 Blogs for Writers Contest

Here are the rules:

  • Nominate your favorite blog in the comment section (see link below).
  • You have only one vote (only your first will be counted).
  • Please include the web address of the blog.
  • Explain why you think the blog is worthy of winning this year’s award.
  • A blog must be nominated more than once to make the cut.

To nominate a blog, go here

Nominations close December 3.

To all my American friends and readers, I hope you enjoy tomorrow with your families. As my husband is American, we’re celebrating with his family, and I know how valuable this time can be, especially if you usually live far apart. Happy Thanksgiving!

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” button. You can also join me on my Facebook page.

Image Credit: Fernando Mengoni

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How to Legally Use Your Own Photos on Your Blog

Using Your Own Photos on Your BlogAlongside the photos offered on free stock sites and through WANA Commons on Flickr, many people are opting to use their own photos on their blog. After all, you can’t get into trouble for using your own pictures, can you? Last week Melinda VanLone gave us 7 free and legal places to find stock photos and 7 places to inexpensively buy hard-to-find pictures. She’s back today to help us sort through what we can and can’t take pictures of. Please join me in welcoming and thanking Melinda for taking the time to help us stay out of trouble 🙂 (All the pictures in this post were also taken by her. Aren’t they gorgeous?)


How to Legally Take and Use Your Own Photos on Your Blog

By Melinda VanLone (@MelindaVan)

With all the talk of law suits and copyright, you might be wondering if it’s safer to not use any images at all. I’m happy to tell you there’s no need to go to extremes. We’ve already talked about places where you can find free, or inexpensive, images for your blog.

This week I’d like to point out another method of dressing up your articles. By far the safest, and easiest, approach to the problem is simply to take your own images. Get a good camera, take it with you everywhere you go, and snap images of anything you think might come in handy someday. Use your imagination. Even a photo of a stop sign can be useful. 

Of course, there are some things you should keep in mind as a fledgling shutterbug. Even with your own photography, there are legal issues to consider. (Please note: I’m NOT a lawyer. This is NOT legal advice. I have to put this disclaimer to cover my own behind…which is something I’m trying to teach you to do.)

Public PlacesUsing your own photos on your blog

Taking photos in public places is, in general, legal. If you are on the sidewalk, and taking a picture of a street scene, a park, a house, or the people on the sidewalk or in the park, that’s ok. Those people have no expectation of privacy, so they are fair game. If you are getting random crowd shots, go ahead…snap away. If you would like a close up of someone, courtesy would dictate that you let them know or ask them if they mind. But you don’t have to. 

This includes children. Yes, it’s perfectly legal to take photos of children you don’t know in a public place. You might find yourself on the wrong end of an angry mother, or someone might call the police just to make sure you’re not a pedophile. But it’s legal both to take the photo and to use it on your blog. You don’t even need parental permission (unless you plan on selling the photo to a stock website–they’ll want a model release).

When I’m getting shots of people, I try to use a telephoto lens. Stay a good distance away and just zoom in on them. Chances are they’ll never know you took the photo.

What’s not ok is to take the shot if there’s an expectation of privacy. In general, this means restrooms, locker rooms, or other places like that. Just because your crazy neighbor always stands naked next to the open window in their bathroom doesn’t mean you have a right to stand on the street, take a photo, and blog about it. They have an expectation of privacy, even though they left that window open. Feel free to point and laugh, just not with your camera.

Private PropertyUsing your own photos in your blog

It’s off limits unless you have permission. Yes, you can stand on the sidewalk and take a photo of that beautiful house, no matter how much the property owner gives you the evil eye. No, you can’t stand in their driveway without permission to get the shot. It’s called trespassing, and it can get you arrested or, if you’re in Texas, shot. If you’re in a restaurant or bar, that’s private property that is open to the public, which is an odd mix. They can post a “no photography” sign and you must comply with it. If there’s no sign, you’re ok to take the photo. But they can ask you to stop, or leave. If you don’t, they can have you arrested for trespass.

Photos of Other Art

Someone else’s photo/artwork/poster/logo/etc. are protected by copyright. You taking a photo of it does not remove their copyright. You’ll need permission from the copyright owner to use your photo unless it falls under fair use. If you’re wondering about that museum trip you have scheduled, a lot of that artwork has passed out of copyright protection and is ok to photograph (see previously mentioned private property open to the public note).  

Photos Where You Might Endanger Others

In general, photographing accidents, fires, or public officials going about their jobs in a public place is legal. If you will block traffic or hinder them from doing their job in order to get that awesome shot, don’t. They have the right to arrest you if you get in the way.

Military Installations

Military installations are, in general, off limits. You can try to get a photo of those from the sidewalk or street but don’t be surprised if soldiers with guns show up. If there’s a fence, usually they’ll have a sign telling you to go away. I’d take their word for it.

(Marcy here: FBI buildings are also off limits for obvious reasons. They don’t know if you’re a tourist or a terrorist. Back when my husband lived in D.C., I reached for my camera to take a picture of the emblem on an FBI building, and he quickly informed me of my mistake before I got myself into trouble.)

Public Attractions

It’s usually legal to take a photo of tourist attractions, whether public or privately owned, unless they’ve posted signs to the contrary.

The Up-The-Skirt Cam

This should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. Please don’t photograph someone’s private body parts without their permission. Even if they are in a public place. In most states it’s illegal for you to stick your camera up a woman’s skirt and snap a photo, even if she is in the park and not wearing any underwear. Just…don’t. 

What’s This About Fair Use?

According to Wikipedia, fair use is “a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Examples of fair use include commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship.” I would add blogging to that list. If you’re doing a book, movie, or restaurant review, fair use would be using a shot of the book cover, movie poster, or image of the restaurant.  Please note, the idea that blogging is journalism is still being debated in the courts. Therefore, think about what you’re saying and/or doing. If in doubt, make friends with a lawyer you can hit up for advice.

I Got the Shot! Now What?

Once you have that great shot, be careful what you DO with the photo. Yes, you own it. Yes, you may use it on your blog or even sell it. However, be sure that when you use a photo with people that you aren’t disparaging them. Taking a random shot of someone sitting on a park bench, and then putting the photo with a blog post about drug users, is implying that they are a drug user. That leaves you right in the middle of something that could be considered slander.

Ask yourself: if that were me in the photo, would I be upset at how I’m using it? Would any reasonable person? If that were my child up there next to my blog post, would it upset me? If you are in the slightest doubt, don’t use it. This is a blog, and if you’re not making money from your blog it’s not worth the lawsuit if you’re wrong. Or simply use photos without people. It’s hard for a piece of fruit or a stop sign to sue you.

But I Don’t Know Anything About Photography!

A fantastic resource for photographers, whether you are a beginner or advanced professional, is They have tutorials for the basics, and assignments for the advanced, and a ton of advice. Don’t be afraid of it, just go for it! Who knows, you might stumble on a whole new hobby that will bring you joy.

What other questions do you have about using your own photos? Have you already been using photos you’ve taken yourself on your blog?

Melinda VanLoneMelinda VanLone is a science fiction/fantasy author with a Master’s degree in Publishing. She spent too many years to confess to working in graphic design and production before moving on to explore life as a writer. She’s a Photoshop expert, technology addict, and MMORPG lover. Melinda’s current work-in-progress, The Demon You Know, will be published in 2012. You can visit her website at

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Four Little-Known Factors that Could Destroy Your Blog’s Chances of Success

Are you frustrated because your blog has plateaued?

Maybe you took part in a class or joined Triberr, saw a jump in stats, but now things have leveled out again, and you can’t figure out why you’re not growing the audience that other bloggers seem to be. Or maybe you know your content is well-written, but you’re not getting the attention that less well-written blogs are.

You might be making one of these major, but easily fixable, mistakes.

(1) Your Blog Posts Aren’t Focused on a Single Topic

You can talk about a wide variety of things on your blog, but when you write a post, it needs to be laser focused on one topic. Even if you do a list post like my What Groundhog Day Can Teach Us About Contentment (or like this post for that matter), you still have a single topic. Contentment lessons from a particular movie. Things that might be hurting your blog.

If you throw multiple unrelated topics, or loosely related topics into one blog post, not only will your reader feel overwhelmed but they’ll feel confused about what you’re trying to say. Your post won’t stick with them as well as it would if you focused, and if it doesn’t stick with them, they won’t be as likely to share it and talk about it.

Multiple topics also don’t give you the room to properly expand any of them. Your readers will go away feeling like you made them a promise and didn’t fulfill it.

(2) Your Titles Stink

I hate to be so blunt, but it’s the truth. Have you wondered why your carefully crafted blog posts aren’t getting many click throughs from Facebook, Twitter, or other social networking sites? The problem might be your title.

With 500,000 new blog posts published per day on sites alone, we can’t afford to use vague or boring titles if we want our blog to stand out in tweets or in someone’s Google reader. Worse, if you’ve written a bad blog title, any shares you get from Triberr or from the social media buttons at the bottom of your post will be wasted. Both tools use the title you’ve given to your post unless those sharing it know to fix it. Most don’t or won’t take the time.

What counts as a boring or vague blog title (and tweet)? Here are a few I pulled from my Google reader, email inbox, and Twitter stream.

New blog post!

Raise your hand if you can identify with this post

A short list and 10 great links

This may be a random thought

ROW 80 Update

(There were others, but I tried to pick ones that couldn’t be easily identified so that I didn’t hurt anyone.)

(3) You’re Focusing Your Social Media Time on the Wrong Sites

We can’t be on every social media site without burning out or becoming an automated spam bot. We need to carefully choose the two or three sites that work best for us. But how are you making your decision about where to focus?

If you’re only looking at hits, you’re doing it wrong.

In March, StumbleUpon ranked fifth on the list of top referring sites for my blog. My first thought was “I should learn how to use StumbleUpon. If I’m getting this many hits without being actively involved, imagine what would happen if I started focusing on it.”

But hits don’t mean everything.

When I looked at my site analytics, I found that people coming from StumbleUpon stayed less than 45 seconds (not long enough to carefully read my post, read any of the comments, share, look at other pages, or comment themselves). In other words, they weren’t engaging. They weren’t the kind of traffic I’m looking for. If I focused my attention there, I’d be wasting my time.

For those of you who are investing time into Pinterest, are the people engaging or are they empty hits? People who don’t engage also don’t share and don’t return.

(4) You Aren’t Focused on Others

This goes beyond just making relationships with other bloggers through talking to them on social media, sharing their content, and commenting on their blogs (all of which are important).

What’s the take-away value of every post you write for the person reading it? If you hadn’t written it, would you care enough to read it?

For example, if you build a deck over the weekend, don’t just tell people you built a deck and share pictures of the progress. Unless they’re your family or best friends, they won’t care (sometimes even those people won’t really care and will only read the post to be nice). However, if you use your story about building your deck to give your readers the five biggest mistakes to avoid when building their own deck, you’ve made it both personal and valuable.

The take-away doesn’t always need to be practical in a physical sense. Sometimes it can be emotional, psychological, or spiritual. Sometimes it can be entertainment. The point is, the post is focused on them, not on you.

What’s your biggest blogging struggle? Which of the above points (if any) would you like me to turn into a full blog post?

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? Point of View in Fiction is now available. (You also might want to check out Internal Dialogue or Showing and Telling in Fiction.) All are available in both print and ebook.

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Why I’m Changing Up My Blog

Marcy Kennedy's BlogI’ll be making some changes to my blogging schedule starting April 1, 2012.

As many of you already know, I think Kristen Lamb and her WANA (We Are Not Alone) methods are the smart road for writers to take when it comes to balancing the load of writing and platform building while still making time to live your life.

In her post Sacred Cow Tipping – More Common Blogging Misconceptions, Kristen points out two pitfalls we often fall into as new writer-bloggers. We feel we need to have separate blogs for separate topics and we give all our energy to a group blog at the expense of our own. I did both these things, and I was burning myself out, leaving little time for my novel or my life away from my computer.

Lisa Hall-Wilson and I have absolutely loved the year and a half we gave to Girls With Pens, and we don’t regret a moment of it. But it’s time for us to take the next step. We will no longer be blogging at Girls With Pens. (We’re also not getting rid of it entirely—read on.)

So with Girls With Pens shutting down, instead of posting here Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays (which I have been), I’ll be posting Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Instead of having separate blogs for separate topics, I’ll be loosely grouping my topics into days. If you’re only interested in one of the topics, I won’t be offended if you ignore the others 🙂

Mondays will be where fantasy, science fiction, and real life collide in posts like Who’s Your Unicorn and The Lie of Helen of Troy.

Wednesdays will be devoted to posts on writing, editing, platform building, and blogging like 6 Grammar Mistakes that Will Cost You Readers and What Do We Mean By “Strong Female Characters?” If you’ve also been following Girls With Pens, you already know what to expect on these days. I’m simply moving locations.

Friday will be the new day for interviews with fantasy and science fiction authors to help you pick your next weekend read, behind the scenes looks at the worlds within the books (like my Bertie Botts posts), v-logs, and mash-ups.

I’ll still be bringing you excellent guest posters, but they won’t have a set day.

What about Girls With Pens? Even though we’re shutting down the blog, you can sign up for our monthly Girls With Pens newsletter where we’ll be bringing you interviews with industry professionals.

I hope that you’ll sign up for my blog here, and if you’d like to hangout online, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. I’m also on Pinterest, and would love to have you follow my boards and get a chance to see your boards in return.

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