Ah the blog. Some of you might perk up at the word. Others? Blog sounds like some radioactive creature that hatched from a meteor and is only there to feed. Feed on your energy, your hopes and your dreams.
Many writers start the blog with high hopes, then a few months in? You can’t bear to go to your computer because the screen is a reminder of that shiny blog you started…then abandoned to the spam bots.
A blog done properly is one of the most powerful tools in our social media arsenal.
Twitter could flitter and Facebook could face plant, but the blog will remain. In fact, blogs have been going strong since the 90s and have taken over much of what used to be the sole territory of traditional media outlets. Additionally, blogging is the only form of social media that plays to a writer’s strengths.
Many writers get overwhelmed at the idea of a blog. But there are SO MANY blogs! Yes, there are. But don’t let that number fool you. Yes there are a gazillion blogs, but how many are any good? How many are consistent? How many have been abandoned?
When we blog properly, the competition isn’t nearly as bad as one might imagine.
What vexes me profoundly is when I attend classes on social media and blogging and witness eager authors listening to advice that frankly? Sucks. Not long ago, I literally walked out of a blogging class at a conference…namely because shutting up is not my strong suit.
So today, I want to outline some basics for you and get you asking and answering the correct questions before you begin to blog. If you want to know more about the author brand/blog I go into great detail in my book Rise of the Machines. I also have two classes coming up—Branding for Authors (May 16th) and Blogging for Authors (May 20th). This will keep this post a reasonable length because blogging is a vastly complex topic.
But the biggest question we need to ask in the beginning (before we get stuck) is….
What Kind of Blogger Do I Want to Be?
An Author Blog is Different
One thing I want all of you to understand is that the author blog is a distinctively different creature. Part of why I got so angry in the class I walked out of was because the expert failed to make the distinction and acted like a blog was a blog was a blog.
There is a HUGE difference between a blog and an author blog so you need to ask yourself this BIG question before you ever get started because it will impact everything that follows.
Is your goal to become a professional blogger? Or, is your goal to use your blog to build your author brand and eventually drive book sales?
There’s no wrong answer, but there is a vast difference in approach and planning. Often bloggers will use monikers. Think Scary Mommy, The Bloggess, or Pioneer Woman. For a blogger, this is perfectly fine since the goal is to build the BLOG and often the goal is to become big enough to be able to sell ad space.
If, however, you are wanting to be a successful author who blogs? A moniker makes your journey unnecessarily longer and harder and will only add layers of friction to your brand. The only acceptable author brand is the name printed on the front of your books.
People don’t like thinking and they’ve gotten really spoiled. If I spend years blogging as HappyFunGirl, then no one browsing novels would even notice Kristen Lamb because I branded the wrong name.
There is another constraint worth mentioning. Content. Often blogs revolve around a particular area of interest—cooking, family, parenting, pets, etc. These are all non-fiction topics and stuff the left brain loooooves.
The problem is that authors are selling a right brain product (fiction). Why are we selling a right brain product with a left-brained brand? It’s bait that’s less than ideal. Again, it can work, but it isn’t connecting the way it needs to in order to cultivate a fan base for fiction.
Another problem when we start a subject-based blog? It’s easy to burn out (get stuck). An author blog gives us far more flexibility and freedom in our content that will keep us passionate about writing for years to come. We won’t feel chained to a subject that no longer interests us.
Why it is really critical to define our goals in the beginning is this is going to dictate where to build our blog. Any “expert” who says the only difference in a free platform and a paid platform is how many fonts, colors and backgrounds you have to choose from, doesn’t know her stuff.
The reason I’m a huge fan of the blog is the blog is a great way to drive book sales in a noninvasive way. We blog on something that catches interest, a reader clicks and likes and subscribes, and over in the corner, what do we have?
A shopping cart to BUY our books.
The entire reason I became a social media expert was I fell victim to the same bad advice I’m warning you of today. The same advice being given in 2016 in that class.
I didn’t know that the real difference in the FREE version and the PAID one had everything to do with BUSINESS.
In the FREE version, we cannot conduct commerce, which means no shopping cart. I didn’t know this in the beginning and it wasn’t until I had over 25,000 subscribers that I realized my mistake. By the time I had books for sale? There was no moving my followers, my 500+ blog posts and my tens of thousands of comments.
I had to start at GROUND ZERO if I moved. Yes, I was STUCK.
***Actually, WP now will allow me to move everything but I had to wait five years for the technology to catch up to my oops. I’ll be moving over the summer when things slow down. It will be way easier for me to have a shopping cart instead of having to hyperlink books and classes every post.
But here is the deal, I’ve done all the dumb stuff so you don’t have to. Plan for success and just invest the $100 in a paid site. You will thank me later 😉 .
If you are stuck and not growing and not selling books? Might be time for an upgrade.
We must remember that the easier we make it for people to find, interact, subscribe, follow, share and comment on our blogs, the greater the odds of the blog being successful. This is why I strongly recommend a WP based website. I know some authors love Blogger and are very successful using it and if so? Sally forth. This is more for the new folks.
WP, in my POV, is far more user-friendly. Blogger makes me solve five CAPTCHAS, submit a haiku, three letters of reference and a blood sample before I can comment. This is why if I click on a link and see the post is Blogger based? I don’t even read.
Blogs live and die by the comments, so no matter what platform you use, please make it easy for people to comment and share.
When authors don’t get comments and followers it is super easy to get discouraged and give up. Change the interface. It might just be your readers are having a tough time connecting.
Bonus Blogging Tip
If you start an author blog, make it your landing page on your author website.
Static pages are boring and no one wants to go there. This makes it easier for you to use blogs as bait to get folks to your site where hopefully they will buy books. Remember the more we make people click to navigate, the more chances we have to lose them. If the blog and shopping cart are right there on the landing page?
Also, if you blog regularly putting your blog on your author site (home page) will make the search engines looove you and will give you algorithmic advantage which is essential for success 😀 .
What are your thoughts? Did you realize there was a difference between the blog and the author blog? Are you seeing some things you’ve been doing that might be stalling your blog? Have you lost the love for blogging?
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of MAY, 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.
Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line (THIS FRIDAY!!!) This is a great diagnostic for a floundering plot. I can tell what is wrong (or even right) with a plot by looking at the log-line. The first ten signups get their log-line shredded IN CLASS and for FREE.
Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist This class will teach you to be a master plotter. No antagonist, no plot. Weak antagonist, weak plot. Additionally this class will teach you how to put conflict and tension on every page.
Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages The first five pages are one of our best selling tools. We fail to hook the reader and that is a lost sale. In this class, we go over the art of great beginnings. Additionally, the upper levels Gold and Platinum I actually LOOK at your pages and critique your actual writing. I am offering DOUBLE PAGES for FREE so this is a fantastic opportunity to get feedback from a pro.