Your author website is the one piece of internet real-estate that is entirely under your control. Amy Shojai shares how to make the most of the blog on your site to attract new readers, build your author brand, and sell more books.
Whether you publish independently or with a traditional publisher, publishing professionals routinely tell authors they must blog. Yes, a blog can be a great book marketing tool and promote your author brand.
However, most book authors refuse to blog, or worse—they do it wrong.
Why Authors Should Blog
Introvert’s Dream. How many of y’all consider yourselves introverts? That’s one reason creatives write in our office caves with a cat on our lap. A blog connects you directly with readers, with no need for makeup or shoes.
Even better, readers respond to you. A blog gives you feedback directly from your audience and allows readers a glimpse into their favorite author’s life–as little or as much as you wish to reveal.
Find Your Street Team. Building a blog creates book super-fans. These readers cheer your success and want to be part of that. Think of the blog as your front porch where friends gather over a cup of tea or a cocktail to chat about their lives.
Build Credibility. Authors wield authority and the blog works as an expanded business card to demonstrate your professional expertise. Agents, editors, organizations, speaker bureaus, television producers and others routinely fish the blogging waters for experts. That includes fiction authors when you becoming a go-to expert on the specific topic(s) showcased in your novels.
Note: Always include easy-to-find contact information on your blog so that booking agents can find you.
Author Control. The blog belongs to you, with no gatekeeper or social media watchdog second-guessing your content or showing it only to a select few. You can write what you want, promote or not, and even get paid for hosting guest posts.
Bogus Reasons Authors Don’t Blog
It’s expensive! Uhm, no it’s not expensive. In fact, you can set up a blog for free. I don’t recommend free because a professional blog offers more advantages, such as having your own “branded” URL. Joanna Penn has a great resource for creating an author website, and the blog can piggyback on that.
[Note from Joanna: You'll find that website tutorial here.]
I’m not tech-savvy. Neither are most authors, or we’d build levitating cars and James Bond gizmos instead of writing about them. Tech people created free- to low-cost options for plug-and-play blogs. If you use book formatting templates, you can use blogging templates.
Takes time away from book writing. So does any book marketing. Blogging is the cheapest option in your advertising toolkit. Use content you’ve already created for blog posts, or expand blog posts into additional chapters in your book.
I rewrite blog posts for my newspaper column and use the same subject for a biweekly TV segment. Some posts end up as chapters in books. A number of successful bloggers have published successful books based on their blog content, so it blogging could inspire your next book.
I’m a pro, why give my expertise away? Nonfiction authors get paid for writing blogs for clients. Get over yourself! Learn from your fiction colleagues.
Selective free content whets the reader’s appetite for more. Fiction authors give away first-in-series books, or novellas between installments, so readers fall in love with characters and purchase the rest of the author’s work.
Nonfiction authors can easily repurpose previously published material into blog posts (see previous section).
My big-name-publisher will promote me/my book. Hahahahahaha! Oh wait, you’re serious? Only a fraction of authors receive promotional help. The lion’s share falls to the author, which is why your agent and/or editor commanded, “Go ye forth, and blog!”
Top Reasons Blogs Fail & How Yours Can Succeed
There are many reasons blogs fail, and a top problem is discoverability. Most of my traffic comes from Google search, so I pay close attention to search engine optimization (SEO).
Blog owners also get in trouble using images or content without permission, or not disclosing affiliate relationships. It’s vital to purchase appropriate rights. As writers, we understand copyright issues.
Most blog problems can be easily fixed.
Here are four major reasons blogs fail.
1. Unrealistic expectations: How many of y’all tried blogging, and gave up after…how long? Two weeks? Six weeks? Growing a blog following doesn’t happen overnight.
Blog audience increases at predictable intervals when readers know what to expect. Traffic and page views (PVs) increase after three months, double after six months, and double again after about a year with consistent postings and content.
If your book launches in a year, blog now so your audience grows and boosts your book release.
2. Inconsistent posting: Authors start daily blogs and burn out, or they post when “the muse” strikes. Treat blogs as seriously as your book, or your readers won’t care.
Would you come back to a TV program if the episode stayed the same or the channel never changed? Blogs are no different. Choose a schedule that works for you. It doesn’t matter if it’s weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or daily. Loyal readers notice and return when you have something to share.
3. Writing about writing: That’s great—if your audience is other writers and you have a how-to writing book to sell. Readers may be curious, but you want rabid readers.
Ask yourself, who is my audience? What do they like to read?
4. Writing at your audience. Construct posts to invite conversation, not deliver lectures. Readers find vast material from googling topics. They read blogs for your personality, and a peek inside your world.
Try posting about personal experiences and ask questions to invite reader comments. When my puppy ate my vitamins, every blog reader shared their concern and feedback when I asked, “Has this ever happened to you? What else should I have done? Are there veggies that YOU hate, too? Do tell!”
[Note from Joanna: For more on using a blog as part of an author marketing strategy, check out my course, Content Marketing for Fiction.]
7 Prompts for Blog Posts
Write posts that whet readers’ appetites for the main course of your nonfiction book.
Identify your protagonist’s passions and expertise, and write posts about your fictional hero’s love of gardening, for example.
Write about your passions and what fills your heart with joy, just as you do on other social media platforms. Readers respond to that.
Share pictures, post videos, offer polls and ask questions to engage readers and prompt blog comments.
No time to post? Share a YouTube video you love.
Ask readers to post pictures of themselves reading your book, or other fun engagements.
Invite your audience to name that character in your future book. My blog audience competes to win the chance to name a cat or dog character to honor their special pet.
Do you blog on your author website? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.
Amy Shojai is a professional blogger and the author of 30+ pet-centric nonfiction books and thrillers. She also offers an on-demand coaching series Write Schtuff that includes further details about blogging and other publishing must-knows.