I am a huge fan of writers having a blog, but one of the first arguments I get is, “But I did have a blog and it did nothing.” I hear your pain. We live in a world of instant gratification and often it is why we are more inclined to post content on our Facebook or Twitter instead. Instantly we can see other people sharing and responding and it feels oh so good.
The blog? Meh.
The problem, however, is that any “benefit” from Facebook or Twitter evaporates almost as soon as it appears whereas the blog (if we stick to it) will keep giving us rewards for years to come.
Reframe Your Goal
I will give you tips for growing your author blog here in a minute, but a simple mental shift will help keep you pumped up in the meantime. My tips can’t help unless you keep blogging.
Instead of focusing on number of followers, I looked at my blog as my author training. Writing is a tough job and most people won’t make it because of one crucial factor…they want a job. Writing is not a “job.” We don’t clock in and out and have some authority figure who tells us what to do.
We can work when we want and how much we want. No one is going to write us up and fire us if we spend all day looking at kitten videos instead of working.
Most adults have been trained in structured environments like school or the workplace. Thus, when they step out into something where they are their own boss? They struggle. It’s why most entrepreneurs fail as well. They never reach their potential because they lack the critical ingredient necessary—self-mastery.
Thus when I began blogging, I knew I had a lot of bad habits. Blogging would teach me to be beholden to deadlines. Perfect is the enemy of the good, so I would learn to let go and ship. I could relax. It didn’t have to be worthy of a Pulitzer. It was just a blog. Blogging could help me learn to write leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner.
Posts that once took half a day now take an hour. Instead of chasing followers, I focused on becoming a stronger writer.
Blogging would help me stretch those word count muscles. I used to panic at the idea of 1000 words a day and now I can knock that out in about 45 minutes. Blogging taught me to process, analyze and then articulate my thoughts seamlessly (useful for writing books, too). No amount of sharing or liking on Facebook would give me this skill.
Blogging made social media mentally active, instead of me lazily camping out in passivity. Blogging strengthened the muse and made me a better storyteller.
It taught me that content and ideas were literally everywhere.
But while there are countless benefits to writers, we do still want to eventually gain traffic. Duh.
Simply blogging into the ether forever was not exactly a bright plan. So, when I kept blogging and getting nowhere, I began to study blogs. What blogs did well? What blogs garnered hundreds of comments? What blogs had tens of thousands of subscribers? What were they doing that I could learn from?
Elements of a Great Blog
Countless people start blogs that just get left abandoned in cyberspace, yet the elements of an excellent blog are pretty simple. If your blog is not doing well, often some small changes can make a huge difference.
Simple is Best
Content does matter, but packaging is key. We could have a blog so brilliant angels weep, but if no one reads it?
We must always remember that a blog is for the reader and not for us. When I started out, I became far too fascinated with all the cool layouts and color-schemes. When I was writing my blog, I was in the dashboard area which is, of course, black letters on a white page.
Though I thought that black page with red lettering was so edgy and dark and cool, I might as well have been tossing my readers’ eyes into a digital iron maiden.
Simple and clean is best. Our content is what should be the focus, not a bunch of colorful doodads. Remember to also test how your blog looks on a smartphone. Get an idea of how the post looks on any number of devices your reader might use.
The background we choose for a computer, might be a nightmare when trying to read on a phone.
Break Up that Space
Many people don’t truly read blogs, they scan them. Yes, my blogs go longer because often I also give examples (I.e. the post about great description). But, because I use bullet points, those who simply want to scan can gain plenty (and the examples are there for folks who want more).
But I have seem comparably short blogs (500 words) that appeared more daunting than my 1300 word posts simply because the writer failed to break up the text. They left NO white space.
Bullet points, white space, headers, and photographs are key. When we have huge blocks of text in 10 point font? Many potential readers will just move on.
Many people start a blog then quit before they ever get to enjoy a harvest. Blogs take time. We can either keep pouring our energy into instant gratification (Facebook) or we can be patient.
Eventually a blog that is generating thousands of hits per day is not generating those visits off the post for that day. Rather, search engines reward attendance. Additionally, evergreen content (content that is always salient) is being picked up through web searches. This is why building archives is extremely valuable.
I still gain new followers from posts I published years ago.
And the truth is, when my blog started being successful was right about the time that I’d accumulated a substantial archive (around 200 posts). Then I was no longer at the mercy of catching attention with the one post just published, I was beginning to gain ROI from the other 199 posts. I started enjoying compounded returns.
Blogging is about appreciating the long tail, but frankly so is being an author. Just like most bloggers aren’t going to get fame and success with one post, most writers won’t hit it big with one book. We must learn to keep our heads down, to keep putting one foot in front of the other and trust the process.
There is so much more to having a great author blog, so I hope you will check out my Blogging for Authors class!
What are your thoughts? Do you see posts written on wild backgrounds and weird fonts and just run away? Have you ever run across a great post, only to realize the blog had been abandoned?
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of AUGUST, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
Check out the other NEW classes below! Now including a log-line class! Can you tell me what your book is about in ONE sentence? If you can’t SIGN UP.
All W.A.N.A. classes are on-line and all you need is an internet connection. Recordings are included in the class price.
Blogging for Authors (August 26th)
This class will teach you all you need to know to start an author blog good for going the distance. Additionally I would also recommend the class offered earlier that same week (August 22nd) Branding for Authors to help you with the BIG picture. These classes will benefit you greatly because most blogs will fail because writers waste a lot of time with stuff that won’t work and never will and that wastes a lot of time.
I am here to help with that 😉 .
All fiction must have a core antagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the story problem, but the term “antagonist” can be highly confusing. Without a proper grasp of how to use antagonists, the plot can become a wandering nightmare for the author and the reader.
This class will help you understand how to create solid story problems (even those writing literary fiction) and then give you the skills to layer conflict internally and externally.
Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold
This is a personal workshop to make sure you have a clear story problem. And, if you don’t? I’ll help you create one and tell the story you want to tell. This is done by phone/virtual classroom and by appointment. Expect to block off at least a couple hours.
Log-lines are crucial for understanding the most important detail, “WHAT is the story ABOUT?” If we can’t answer this question in a single sentence? Brain surgery with a spork will be easier than writing a synopsis. Pitching? Querying? A nightmare. Revisions will also take far longer and can be grossly ineffective.
As authors, we tend to think that EVERY detail is important or others won’t “get” our story. Not the case.
If we aren’t pitching an agent, the log-line is incredibly beneficial for staying on track with a novel or even diagnosing serious flaws within the story before we’ve written an 80,000 word disaster. Perhaps the protagonist has no goal or a weak goal. Maybe the antagonist needs to be stronger or the story problem clearer.
In this one-hour workshop, I will walk you through how to encapsulate even the most epic of tales into that dreadful “elevator pitch.” We will cover the components of a strong log-line and learn red flags telling us when we need to dig deeper. The last hour of class we will workshop log-lines.
The first ten signups will be used as examples that we will workshop in the second hour of class. So get your log-line fixed for FREE by signing up ASAP.
For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.