I've heard many people in the publishing industry say, "Every author must have a blog," but is blogging really effective? Every author must decide for him or herself, but first, it's important to understand what a blog is and how to use it effectively.
A blog is a shortened version of the term "web log." It's basically a journal or diary that is online for the public to read. Businesses use blogs to share information about their products, new items in their markets, and other information relevant to their industry. Blogging is similar for authors who want to connect with readers, books being the product and readers being the customers who want the product-at least they should after reading your blog.
Blogging is an excellent marketing strategy for authors because it's a way for them to tell their stories, to talk about their books, to share information, items of common interest to readers, and ultimately, to get people to buy their books. Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, most authors are telling a story, and a blog is just another way to tell a story-the story about you the author-in a more personal way that will get readers to like you and want to hear more of what you have to say.
Having a blog does not mean just posting whatever and whenever. As an author, you want to have a strategy for your blog posts. Ultimately, your goal is to sell your books to your potential readers. Make sure your posts reflect that strategy. If you're writing romance novels, it doesn't make sense to post about your gardening interests-unless you can tie those into your book-for example, if your heroine's name is Cecilia and she is a gardener in your book, then you could be creative and present Cecilia's gardening tips.
Following are some key tips to make your blog effective so it will engage your readers:
- Have an attention grabbing headline.
- Keep the content relatively short-just a few paragraphs-a chapter a day from your book may be too long, so spread it out over a few posts-remember people online have short attention spans.
- Post selections from your books.
- Write about why you wrote your book-tell the background story.
- Give sneak peeks of future books or ideas you're working on.
- Review products of interest to your readers-if you write historical fiction, review other historical novels or historical films. If you write about nature, the outdoors, activities like rock-climbing, then write reviews of nature hiking trails, the best kayaking places, or the newest in climbing equipment.
- Share information about your industry or genre-a lot of readers want to be writers, so talk about writing, publishing, and book marketing-be helpful to everyone who asks for help (within reason).
- Offer viewpoints that may be a little controversial.
- Ask your readers for their opinions on what you post. Solicit comments from them. Asking for feedback tells your readers that you want to know what they have to say, and that you're interested in understanding your customers. Respond to the comments people write. Remember, many people view authors as celebrities. They will be pleased that you took the time to write them back. The more comments you get, the more people will want to leave comments. Don't worry about negative comments-you can control what comments appear on your site, but a little controversy can also help.
- Ask your readers what topics they would like you to post about. Ask them for ideas for future books, or put up a piece of writing and ask for feedback.
- Link to other sites and exchange links. Find authors who write on similar topics or in similar genres. Interview them, or review each other's books. Links will help your search engine optimization and you'll have more links back to your site to attract readers.
- Advertise your blog. Just putting up a blog on your website won't get people to your blog. Advertise it through your email lists. Be involved in social media sites like Facebook and Twitter where you can promote your blog.
- Avoid trying to sell directly. No one likes a pushy salesperson. Share information and make people curious about your thoughts, opinions, and writing. People like to do business with people they know and like. As they get to know and like you, they'll become more curious to buy your book.
- Go beyond the written word. Include photographs in your blog to attract people who are more visual. You can also include audio and video to your blog. Take turns playing with or switching up different types of blog posts.
- Automate your blog so everything you post goes to your social networking sites. Ping.fm is one good site that allows you to cross-post.
- Be listed on blog directories so people looking for information or the topics you're writing about can find you.
- Follow other authors and people in the publishing industry's blogs and post comments on those blogs-your website will be included so people will follow you back to your website.
- Post on average three or more blogs a week so you always have new content and readers stay interested.
Blogging can be a fun and fulfilling way to promote your books, to have conversations with readers, to try out ideas for future books, and to learn a great deal about how to market your books to attract readers. Ultimately, you won't know if blogging is effective for you unless you try it.