OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
This is a guest post from Judy Dunn from Cat's Eye Writer, also one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers.
Maybe you are working on your first book. Or could be you've already published.
Either way, you've probably heard a writer friend say, “You should start a blog.”
“Why should I blog?” you say. “I have enough writing to do. Won't that just mean more deadlines?”
Well, yes, it will.
And you are right. You don't have to blog.
Unless you want to hang around with other writers, find readers who will eagerly purchase and consume your books and maybe even capture the attention of busy editors and publishers.
With a blog, you get to shine a light on your work. If you write fiction, you can talk about your characters or about the place and time your novel is set in. Or publish excerpts or trial chapters to whet your readers' appetites.
If your book is nonfiction, you can pique your readers' interest by blogging how-to tips, talking about what inspired you to write your book and asking interesting questions to get your readers focused on your book's topics.
For both fiction and nonfiction writers, a blog is also a perfect laboratory. You can try out new ideas and find out which ones your readers are most attracted to.
And then write about them.
Why building your community matters
Whether you are shopping your book idea with the traditional houses or going the self-publishing route, you know that the readers do not magically appear the day your book hits the Barnes and Noble stores or Amazon.com.
A blog helps you build a platform—an audience of readers. When you develop relationships, provide good solid content and engage your prospective readers, you are creating interest in your books.
How many readers do you need? Not a lot—if they are fans of you and your work.
In fact, it's much better to have 100 engaged readers than 1,000 disinterested ones. Because this core group will create a buzz about your upcoming book and spread the word about this fun new author and her blog.
3 Steps to Growing Your Blog's Reader Community
To build a lively reader community, you need to get your visitors to do three things: show up, add to the conversation and share your content. Here are just a few strategies successful bloggers use:
Getting them there
To build a community of readers—for your blog and for your books—first you need to figure out how to get them there.
• Serve up engaging—and specialized—content. This seem like a no-brainer, but offer your very best content, and put it above the fold (headline and first paragraph matter the most).
• Pay attention to your headlines. People are searching for solutions to their problems. They are also attracted to posts with numbers in the title, headlines that promise how to do something and titles that hint at a surprise.
• Put your blog's URL—in clickable form— in your email signature line. But don't have a 10-line signature line. Your blog will get lost. Put your blog's URL in your signature line if it's the one place you want people to go when you email them.
• Comment on other blogs. This is one of the best ways to drive new readers to your blog because you will get a link back to your blog. Target the blogs you think your blog visitors might be reading and leave a thought-provoking comment.
Alltop.com is a good source for finding the top blogs by industry and topic.
Getting them involved
Okay, now that you have the eyeballs, you need to do something to keep them there. Your goal is to engage your readers.
• Make it super-easy to leave a comment. If you don't, people won't. It's as simple as that. Here are some reasons bloggers don't get comments.
• Ask questions to continue the dialogue. A thoughtful question at the end has been shown to get you at least twice as many comments. So don't forget to engage.
• Accept all points of view. You don't want to encourage comments from only the people who agree with you. New and different ideas make everyone think—readers and bloggers alike—and that's a great way to come up with even more interesting ideas to write about.
• Email a thank you to new commenters. One of the best ways to get more interaction in the comments section is to show your readers that you value their ideas.
Getting them to share your content
This is where you build your critical mass. Because when your blog visitors share your posts with their networks, that is when hundreds—sometimes thousands—more pairs of eyeballs will see your best ideas. And your audience of potential book readers and buyers explodes.
It has never been easier for readers to share the content they consume online. Give your readers as many incentives to share as possible:
• Wake them up with your headline. Sometimes people share a blog post based on the headline alone. So if that title comes through a subscriber's RSS feed and pops into their Google reader, it needs to be interesting enough to pass on. Try a little controversy or a surprise statement.
• Offer a variety of social media ‘share' buttons. Make it easy for readers to share your content by including Digg, de.li,cio.us, Stumbleupon, Tweet This, Facebook and other share buttons at the bottom of each blog post.
• Promote your posts in your own social media networks. Engage your followers on Twitter. But don't just tweet, “here is my new post.”
Instead, try a Twitter ‘teaser' to make your followers curious enough to click through to your post. Same thing on Facebook. Don't just link to your post; use the status update box for an attention-grabbing message.
What about you?
Are you a blogging author? How's it working for you?
Are you an aspiring author using a blog to build your community before your book launches?
Not blogging yet? What's stopping you?
Judy Dunn is the author of Guide to Showing Up Online. She helps authors and business bloggers use their blog to attract readers, customers and clients. She also offers content marketing tips, resources and advice at her own blog, CatsEyeWriter.com, and at bestbloggtipsonline.com. Get more blogging tips by connecting with Judy on Twitter and Facebook.