Using a blog to reach your readers
Many authors think that once they start building their platform, they have to start a blog. If they don’t go in that direction first, a website is one of the things on their mind. While starting a blog and building a website are beneficial, they aren’t always the most important part of building your audience. I wrote about building your platform if that’s what you want to do.
Why should I blog?
Blogging can do a few things for your readers like keep them updated with your story, give them insight into your life, help them understand the world you created, and more. Blogging will give you something to “feed” your readers while they wait for your story. I blog about writing, editing, and publishing because my clients will seek that kind of information. I write to help them. To help you. Because I want you to know everything I do and more. If you need an editor or want a consultation, you know where to find me. That’s what you need for your readers.
You need to give them a place to go and a reason to go there. Your blog posts will either solve a problem they have or give them something they want. The problem is that you need to give them a reason to visit your blog in the first place. In the end, though, that blog can be the central hub where your audience awaits the publication of your novel or book. By simply writing, you can build an audience. Just don’t forget to interact with them, too.
What should I blog about?
Blogs fit into certain niches. You won’t see me writing about my novels-in-progress (not anymore) and you won’t likely see me write about my personal life (anymore). I won’t write about a recipe you absolutely have to try, and I won’t write about the fact that my book is going to be published, whenever that happens. Why?
Your readers want one thing
Be honest. If you click on a blog about how to take a good photo, you’re not going to click on the next post titled “How to test your car battery.” You might if you happen to need to test your car battery, but the point there is that your blog needs to focus on something. I focus on the writing industry. I’m a little broad because my audience is an indie audience, but it’s narrow enough that I hope my readers know what to expect from me.
You need to do the same thing. Write about one thing. If you’re a sci-fi/fantasy author, perhaps you want to go into detail and share the world you’ve created. You could talk about your characters’ backstories that might not be found in the book itself.
If you’re writing a memoir about how you overcame depression without medication, you can write about what it means to be depressed, the stages of healing, articles about the medical background in depression, or even your own journey.
If you’re a historical fiction writer, perhaps you can write about the time period you’re writing in, offering facts about the time that others might not know about. You can talk about specific moments or people in that time period that are either the focus of your book or they’re prominent throughout the time period.
You can do many things with your blog, but notice that I kept those topics within the niche. Anything you write has to relate to the reader’s interests. You can choose one or two topics or several like I did if your audience is broad enough, but choose one. Choose one that allows you to throw a popup window on the screen with your book on it. If you pretend to do that, and you find it doesn’t relate to the post you’re writing (like if a memoir popped up while I was reading about taking photos), rethink whether your audience cares.
After you have that topic figured out, you need an audience.
Any blogging platform you use should have categories that will help you organize your posts. If I would have understood categories better when I started blogging, I would have one for publishing, one for marketing, one for the revision stage, etc. Categories are great organizational tools that will allow your visitors to find posts they’re looking for.
If you’re writing about cooking, for example, you can have a category for desserts or pies or soups…You can make whatever category you want. Newspapers use categories like food, news, sports, entertainment, opinion, outdoors, etc. You can categorize your posts into narrowed groups.
Make sure your group is specific, though. Your blog should only discuss one general thing, so your categories can break that down further.
How do I get readers?
The truth is, you can write as much as you want, and you still won’t get readers on your site. I’d know. It took me more than a year’s worth of posts before I found out I would need to do more than write blog posts if I wanted traffic. I’d have to do even more if I wanted subscribers.
It’s hard work to do that.
One of the most efficient ways to get subscribers and traffic to your blog is to give them something they want. Not a blog post. Pretend your blog post is the meal, and your incentive is the sign that is meant to make them want to come inside.
The sign on a restaurant will guide them to the door
I’m testing out multiple incentives, but I’m going to be transparent here. The incentives I offer are so I can get subscribers. I want subscribers because I write a post every week, and I want you guys to read what I have to say. Otherwise, I’m wasting a few hours a week. So, hopefully you clicked that incentive. If not, and even if you’re subscribed to the blog already, you can sign up and get fifty free writing prompts.
Don’t think you can’t provide an incentive just because you write fantasy or because your book is about how you healed your bond with your parents.
If your book has vampires, I bet you can snag a list of 10 must-see vampire movies before you read my book. I bet, if you write about zombies, you can create a zombie-hunting toolkit (with a list, not physical stuff). If your fantasy world is new and complex, you can create a guide to navigating a world with rogue spirits or even something very narrow like 20 secrets a telepath won’t tell you.
These things are customizable, of course, but anyone interested in your story genre/theme will also be interested in the incentive. I’d click on the last one for sure. I don’t need it, but if you’re writing fantasy, there are few things you can offer a reader that they need. Give them something fun. Something they want. But don’t give them something like 10 ways to die in a bathtub if your story is about a man who falls off a plane and into another dimension or something.
You can research incentives for your particular niche and see what others offer. Make sure you customize any idea to fit your needs, though. You can always offer an incentive. But after you do that, make sure you already have posts for them to go to.
How often should I post?
It depends on your free time. I have to make time for almost anything I want to do, so I limit my posts to once a week. If your posts are short and you can schedule several a day, you might be able to post once a day. The frequency is up to you, but keep in mind that if your posts aren’t something a reader wants to receive daily, you’ll want to consider doing it once a week. I know my readers wouldn’t want to be bombarded with writing tips and advice daily, though if you’d like to be, I post a different post every day on my Twitter.
What do I do after I post?
This is where social media comes in. If you have a Facebook page, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, etc., you have somewhere to post. Post that thing everywhere. I don’t know about other blog platforms, but WordPress allows you to automatically post to certain platforms. Well, the Jetpack plugin does. That’s what I use. You can also use things like IFTT (If This Then That) or Zapier to automatically shoot your new posts out to certain social media platforms.
Post it and interact. Respond to any comment you get on your posts. Comment on other people’s tweets and retweet and repin stuff and have at it. Don’t forget that you hate calling a place and receiving a robot. Your site visitors feel the same way. Be a real person. Interact with them.
Social media platforms are important
As a quick note, I’m going to mention that when I say, “If you have a Facebook page, Pinterest, etc.,” I don’t mean if like it’s optional. If you want visitors, you want social media. If you get to that point, you don’t want just one.
People on Twitter are not the same as the group of people you’ll find on Facebook or Tumblr or Pinterest. Pinterest and Instagram are visual. You’ll be able to catch your visitors there with images that contrast. You’ll bring them to your blog by appealing to their sight. Twitter has that fun 140-character limit. This is good pitch practice. Since they use hashtags to search for their interests, Twitter is where you’ll find a lot of people who are specifically seeking what you’re offering. But, some people aren’t the 140-character type, yet they still want that information. In fact, they want the information given to them, so you can do that on Facebook. Lead them to your page by sharing your page on your personal feed or mentioning it to interested readers or even via other social media. From there, all they do is click “like” or “join” and they get the information sent to them every time you post.
That’s a very broad overview of what social media platforms are like, but hopefully it was enough to describe the difference. Is there a platform you’re not on? Like Tumblr or Reddit? Well, if all you have is a Facebook, what about the readers you could get who don’t have a Facebook.
You don’t have to get yourself on every platform available, but if you want to spread your reach, do a little research and see how other bloggers use platforms to their advantage. Learn from their mistakes then hit the ground running. Set up your blog to automatically post, then check in to respond to any follows, comments, or shares you receive every now and again.
You can automate this stuff. You can make it a lot easier than it might sound because of the volume of accounts you’ll have. But, don’t forget to interact. Don’t forget to love your subscribers!
Can’t I monetize my blog?
Monetizing your blog is possible, but it’s a different realm. You can add Google Analytics to your site so you can better track your traffic and understand what’s being clicked on, what’s not, etc.
There are simple ways to monetize your blog like applying for Google Adsense or applying for the Amazon Associates program. I’m sure there are more, but again, my blog is about writing. I won’t go into detail about this. Monetizing your blog is possible, but it’s very slow. You have to have a lot of traffic for this to matter, and few people can make a living with this. Actually, I don’t know of anyone who can. Don’t depend on this.
How will I know if the posts are good?
Make sure you spell things correctly. It always helps to have someone read your post before you post it. You can schedule ahead and have it post on a certain day and at a certain time so you don’t have to post immediately after writing one, but during your wait, have someone read your copy and help you streamline the words. Some people do this for a price (like me) but you might be able to find a friend or two who want to read your posts, so they can also help you copyedit it.
Don’t start a blog if you can’t keep up with it. Make sure you set aside time to write your post, and try to avoid writing a post you plan on sharing the same day. You don’t want to rush. Your blog will quickly become part of your brand, and you don’t want that brand to be an example of your drafts.