Craig here today. I’ve read it before, but years of experience cements the comment: Your blog is your best promotional opportunity. Let’s talk about how it works, because it may not be how you think.
There are a couple of things you have to accept in order to make this work. Blogging is a form of social media, and you are the brand. You may think your book(s) are the brand, but that isn’t true.
I recommend not opening a book-titled blog. While this is curable over time, you might want to avoid this trap. What happens if you write a second, or subsequent book? The book isn’t the brand, you are.
Pick a title that has more longevity. I call my personal blog Entertaining Stories. (Shameless plug there.) You can see that it allows me to expand my content into multiple books, even multiple genres without the need for change.
Create what is called an “About Me” page right away. This is where you introduce yourself to the world. This is the place that should clearly say this is an author’s blog. People will know what to expect, and you won’t have to keep reminding them. This is important, because you are the brand.
Think about how many products you buy and really enjoy. Do you regularly send emails to these companies, find their blogs and leave comments? Probably not. I love Ivory Soap, but I’ve never contacted them about anything. If you think about it, how much content could one of these companies post to keep their site fresh and people coming back?
So what’s an author to do? The answer is simple, write about other things. I have regular blog followers who have never read one of my books, but they keep coming back. You may think this is counter productive, but it isn’t. I’ve interacted with some for years, but eventually they take the plunge. They read one of my books, because they like who I am. Some of them went on to read my entire backlist. These people have become friends, and that leads me to the other point. Blogging is a form of social media… Be Social.
Get yourself a Gravitar to use right off the bat. You want to establish some familiarity, but you can change it if you want. Then go into the blog world, and start reading. Leave your calling card (Gravitar) to let them know you were there. This is a start, but it isn’t enough. You have to interact with the posts you like.
It really is similar to a Kindergarden rule. If you would have a friend, be one. I know this is tough for some of us, I could be the poster boy for introverts anonymous so I force myself. I assure you, I’m better off for it. Leave those comments, and not just “Nice post.” Say something to let them know you read the post. Ask a question even. Bloggers are happy to interact, and questions are golden.
If you do this, it won’t be long before they visit your site and start leaving comments for you. Make sure to answer your comments. It won’t always work this way. I’ve courted some bloggers, mostly authors, who never visit. If their content is intriguing, I follow them anyway. I’ve learned a ton from my fellow authors, and follow some who never interact. My observation is these sites get very few likes, as indicated by Gravitars, and almost no comments. They’re working pretty hard to produce great content, but they aren’t benefitting from their blogging.
When visitors come to your site, you need to have something to keep them around and interested. I use the banner image I shared at the top of this post. It’s a funny picture based on my own image. I also have a sidebar that has all my wares on it. This is easy to ignore if people choose, but it’s also convenient if they want to check out one of my books. Yes, I know it doesn’t work that way on phones, but I can only do so much. That’s the framework, a banner image and my sidebar. The meat of any blog is the content we post. So what should you post about?
Post about your daily life. I’ve gained fans because I posted pictures of my sourdough starter, and images of the bread I baked. Some love pictures of my dogs, others like my original character Lisa Burton the robot girl. I’ll bet I have come right out and said, “Buy my books” a dozen times in four years. I will share the occasional great review I receive; I post about word metrics and struggles I face during writing. I also post about camping trips and hunting for mushrooms. People interact because they find something interesting. The sidebar is always there.
If you think about it, it’s kind of obvious. If you’ve ever bought anything from an Etsy site, Zazzle, or even used PayPal, you get bombarded with offers in your email box. I delete them without reading them at all. I don’t want my blog content to get skimmed over without reading it.
I’m a frequent poster, and try to update five times per week, more or less. I only have one regularly scheduled post, Lisa Burton Radio. Lisa interviews characters from other authors’ books to help them promote. Even this depends upon having enough guests. I have some sporadic regular items too like The Idea Mill where I grab interesting news that might inspire some fiction, and Macabre Macaroni which are micro-fiction pieces in October. They each have their fans.
There are a few cautions, but your mileage may vary here. I try not to post controversial things on my blog. Controversy is great for fiction, but bad for authors in the real world. I am friends with everyone from the far left to the far right. We all get along together too. My blog has no political or religious agenda, as an example. Believe whatever you want, I’m just here to have fun.
It’s important to keep your content fresh, but even once per week is enough. Three or four times per year isn’t going to produce the results you want. Story Empire is growing by leaps and bounds right now, but we didn’t start out that way. We post twice per week, with a third post being a collection of helpful links. It’s working well for us, and you can duplicate these results.
Blogging can take over, and I’ve seen it happen. I look at it like a cold beverage with friends before I head home in the evening. I keep my content fresh, but I don’t live online. I have books to write and a real life too.
Blogging is a long game. There is nothing that will produce immediate results, and it takes time. Everyone starts somewhere. I just had one of my posts re-blogged by someone who only has five followers. Good for her. I was there once myself. Start a blog, write your “About Me” page, make a calling card and put yourself out there. You’ll make some wonderful friends, and the word about your books will spread. You’ll find others offering space for you to promote, you’ll find people to consult with. I met all of my beta readers via blogging, and they are golden. I’ve met editors, ARC readers, artists, and formatters. These are good people to know, and I met them all through blogging.