Blogging is a crapshoot.
Actually, as much as I don’t want to admit this, anything on the internet is a crapshoot.
Websites take time to build and lots of work to keep fresh. And the thing that trips up most authors? All that work might end up being a giant waste of time.
Because there are no guarantees in internet marketing. No guarantees that keyword research, SEO, snappy headlines, and consistent posting will even bring in an audience. As authors, it lessens the chances even more because our customer base is so much more streamlined.
Probably not encouraging but it’s something every author should consider before deciding on blogging as part of a business strategy.
The thing that keeps many of us continuing to try? The work might not be a giant waste of time.
If you knew there was something you could do that could give you an edge above your competition, wouldn’t you want to do it?
That’s what a blog can be.
Here’s the thing, though.
I can regurgitate a thousand articles about blogging. Why you need to use marketing and not selling, why you need to write 1200 word posts at least once a week to stay in touch with readers. Why all of those posts need to be about them and not you. Something they’ll learn or something that entertains them. Why you should never try to sell your book with a blog.
The trouble with all of that is our industry doesn’t always fit into the standard marketing vibe.
Because, as writers, we are our jobs. We are what we do.
We’re entertainers first and foremost
Fiction writers in particular. We’re like actors in a one-woman show. We have to become each of our characters, figure out what they’d say, do, who they are, where they live, what they care about.
And then we have to figure out a way to express all that with words.
And then we have to attract the people who want to read those words.
As you know, we have a lot of competition. Television, streaming, video games, happy hours with friends, movies, sports. Not to mention, other books.
So that always begs the big question – who in the world are we writing for and how do we reach them with a blog?
Or, maybe the better question – is it even worth trying to reach them with a blog?
Let me back up for a second with an example.
A concrete company has a product to sell, just like an author with a book. The cement company, however, has an advantage. Their customers are cut and dry – people who need concrete for numerous types of projects. Anything from setting deck posts to paving a freeway.
The company can easily blog about concrete topics their customers care about – tensile strength, colors, how to tint countertops, and a million other applications for the specific concrete product they sell.
The readers of that blog are already interested in concrete and the company can laser focus on a handful of topics their customers want to learn about. Blogging in a business like that is essentially easy.
But an author?
Blog with your brand in mind
Remember I mentioned above that we’re first entertainers? Well, that’s important because we aren’t just selling a product, we’re selling ourselves.
Because we’re the face in front of and behind the scenes. No matter how many assistants, ghostwriters, marketing and publicity reps we hire, the people reading our books still see us as the only face of our brand.
It’s our face in that little thumbnail on the jacket of our books, after all.
While it’s true we do have customers looking for a particular product – our book – that singular product is limited. What we really need to sell to people is our brand.
In the case of entertainers, the brand is us.
The genre of fiction we write will depend on our audience. Most people who read every erotic romance ever written are less likely to gravitate to a historical war story. And vice-versa.
So that begs another question: should our blog focus on us, our book, how we write, or something else entirely?
And that’s the rub. Writing fiction and selling that product by using another form of writing.
Should you write a business or personal blog
Blogging for personal reasons takes all of the “rules” away from blogging. You can post about anything – your dinner, cat, writing life, etc. A personal blog is a great thing if you want a separate creative outlet to vent or stay connected to family and friends.
Blogs like that fall in the category of journaling. Sadly, there isn’t much traction for fiction writers with a personal journal. If you write non-fiction or memoir, however, a journal style can be a beautiful compliment to your book.
If you want a blog to help you sell fiction books, you need to shift focus. Blogging for business is the key.
True, that business is you, however, blogs need to come in the form of information. Something you can teach. Something you know about inside and out. And, preferably, something that relates to the genre of books you write.
Pick a topic, theme from your book, or even a character and write about that. Make sure it’s something you’ll be passionate to write about for a long time over many posts.
For example, if you write cop thrillers, perhaps you’d enjoy writing about cold cases. If you write chick-lit, maybe your main character loves makeup and you could build your blog around that topic.
Keep in mind your audience and main themes in your fiction when narrowing down possible topics for your blog.
You’ll need to do keyword research within the topic you choose, stick to that topic, and consistently post. Keyword and SEO targeted, weekly posts would be ideal. Even more ideal, writing those posts for the specific search engine you want to target.
Search engines and how to work with them
There are three main search engines to focus on – Google, YouTube, and Pinterest. Where you target depends on your book and what you want to get from your blog.
Google is about learning through words. Articles, chunky ones with lots of detailed, researched info, that’s what Google wants. They want keywords without stuffing, helpful content so the person searching will find the answers they’re looking for.
Their questions are the keywords you’ll use in your blog.
If you write non-fiction, blog for Google. If you’re blogging about those cold cases, Google is a good engine to target because you’ll find a slew of awesome keywords. To learn more about writing for Google ranking I highly suggest checking out the guys at Income School. They give tons of awesome info for free and even have a paid membership site to dive in deeper (no spons/affiliate).
If you write illustrated books or other image heavy books, consider Pinterest. This could mean non-fiction like cook books, children’s books, or even fiction books about the makeup loving main character. Makeup is a visual medium, perfect for Pinterest.
Pinterest is about killer images that lead the viewer to helpful content when they click through from your image. For more info on how to optimize Pinterest for business, I suggest the folks at Create and Go (no spons/affiliate).
YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine next to the Googs. So, if you have something to teach and you’re comfy on camera, write scripts and get on film. Then, write posts to compliment your videos (or vice-versa).
Any author can maximize YouTube if done correctly. This is very personal, brand dependent, and similar to Google ranking in that you want to do it consistently and always on-topic. One YouTuber who seamlessly blends blogging with video is Allison Lindstrom (no spons/affiliate).
What not to do with a blog
1. Don’t sell. Only point people directly to a book occasionally (1-2 times per quarter at most). And only do that if there’s a reason – new release, giveaway, price drop, price promo, etc. Marketing is connecting, a blog is a casual way to connect over information.
2. Don’t blog about trends. The moment the trend passes, so will your blog. Stick to evergreen topics and themes related to your book(s) and post consistently.
3. Don’t make it all about you. You are your brand but, unless you write memoir, readers want to learn about the topics that interest them with whimsical hints of you woven in. Not 1000 words on your life.
4. Don’t expect immediate engagement. It takes months, sometimes years, to gain any sort of traction from a blog. Check your analytics regularly but don’t quit writing if you don’t see thousands of visitors in the first few months.
5. Don’t discount the power of social media. Joining groups in Facebook, chats on Twitter, or any other socially based platform can really help. But help is the key. Be sure to adhere to the rules of posting, be helpful, and engage often. Then, when your blog helps answer a question, you can post the link without it coming off like spam.
A blog, like I said to open this post, is a crapshoot. Building a successful blog takes strategy, time, and most of all, hard work. But if you keep at it, a blog can really help you reach a larger audience – the people who will want to read your books.