The standard marketing advice for authors is to get a web page going and start a blog, along with Twitter and Facebook and a host of other online presences.
WEB SITE – THE GO-TO PLACE. A web site makes sense for a variety of reasons, the best of which is that it allows readers to find basic information about you and your books that stays put and stays basically the same with timely updates. A web site is usually the first place readers visit to find out more about you and your books. It is your core piece of promo as an author and should reflect your personality and the type of books you write, so that readers can get to know you and your branding. The mood and visual theme of a web site should reflect the type of books you write. Dark and spooky for gothic or paranormal, rich and vibrant for sassy romance, gritty and graphic for murder mysteries. You get the idea...
BLOGS OFFER MORE DYNAMIC INFORMATION IN AN INTERACTIVE ENVIRONMENT. A blog may be part of your web site or located on a different site. While a blog may have the outer shell look and feel of a web page, it offers the chance to present more dynamic and constantly changing information that allows you to present a lot more than just blurbs about your books. If you have comments enabled (and you should), you can allow visitors to your blog to interact with you about what you post. You can talk about anything you want on a blog and direct it toward subjects you are passionate about. You can feature guest bloggers, talk about others’ books, and basically do just about anything you want. Look at this blog, for example. Check out the archives and see all the topics and articles it contains.
BLOGGING IS NOT A WALK IN THE PARK. With so much inherent freedom to dispense information and engage potential readers, blogging can quickly become a daunting task. You have to decide first of all what to talk about, how often to post, and how you can expect to attract readers. But before deciding all that, you have to define the purpose of your blog. Many people start up blogs for no good reason and talk about a variety of different subjects that end up not being of particular interest to anyone. The result is, these bloggers talk to an empty virtual room. As an author with a goal of trying to attract people to your blog and engage them with witty repartee in an attempt to convince them they will enjoy reading your books, you need to have a more focused and realized reason for spending your time and effort keeping up a blog. You should never blog simply for the sake of blogging, because that is counterproductive to your main goal – to be a writer. It is counterproductive because it creates a new situation where you have to write, but not necessarily write what you set out wanting to write when you decided to be an author. A blog can be a fun outlet if you have lots and lots to say, but it can also distract you with the relative ease of posting as opposed to dedicating yourself to a larger writing project like a novel. A blog in comparison is an easy escape from the work of writing a novel.
WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY? A lot of authors who start blogs without a clear idea of what they are trying to accomplish end up talking about a whole lot of nothing. Why my dog chews my shoes. Searching for four-leaf clovers. What I read to my kids for bedtime. Do vampires make better lovers than werewolves. There is nothing wrong with blogging about topics such as this, as long as you can tie them to a consistent and compelling reason for people to want to find out what you have to say. The potential problem lies in talking about completely random things that have nothing to do with a common overall theme, with you, your author goals, or your desire to engage readers to buy your book. That’s not to say you should run a blog plead every week that screams, Buy my book, buy my book, please, please, please! That’s certain to run people off. But you should blog with a purpose in mind for each post. You should endeavor to make a point and bring something to your readers’ attention, or champion a cause. But say it with flair and originality. Tell your readers something new about your subject or put a new spin on it that your readers will find inventive and refreshing. Whatever it is you do with your blog posts, make them mean something to your readers rather than posting a whole lot of nothing. Because if your visitors get a whole lot of nothing from you, they won’t come back for more.
FUN VS. DREAD. Blogging should be fun, not a chore. If you dread blogging, you’ll put it off until the last minute every week. And sooner or later your posts will become ghosts of the posts that should have been. Blogging should not take up so much of your time that you don’t have time to write new books. On the other hand, you can’t just whip up something off the top of your head. You need to plan. You need an overall theme. Start with analyzing what kind of readers would likely read your book(s). Think of what kind of blog articles would attract those readers. And remember, you don’t always have to write about the same thing in every post. That will get old fast. Built-in variety will help your blog stay fresh and interesting. The objective is to keep visitors coming back and keep attracting new visitors. You can mix things up by varying topics and varying the length of your blogs, and posting graphics that will enhance your articles. You can search for images on Google, but sometimes those images are copyrighted, so take care in what you choose to replicate on your blog. You can also read other blogs to help you maintain a more well-rounded view of the social world. Inviting guest bloggers will help relieve the pressure of having to always come up with your own content. And don’t be afraid to repurpose your own content. Get creative about how you post teasers about your book. Sometimes the best way to do that is to guest blog or do a blog tour on a host of other blogs, then on your own blog refer to the varied content you’ve created for those blogs. You can even tweak a post for one guest blog to recycle it on another blog. Just make sure that cross-posting similar articles doesn’t happen on blogs that frequently share information.
TO BLOG OR NOT TO BLOG. One of the most important considerations in starting up a blog is to analyze yourself and your habits honestly. If you are not going to keep up with blogging for the long haul, don’t even start. There’s nothing worse than making a half-hearted attempt that self-sabotages your efforts. It will disappoint you as well as the few followers you might actually attract to your blog. Know your limits and accept them, or endeavor to change them. Some people are not adept at witty repartee. They are uncomfortable cutting loose and joking around and letting their sense of humor show. Maybe some don’t even have a sense of humor, or at least don’t have a social thermometer that tells them when they’re going beyond tolerable extremes. Attitude is everything in a blog, and if you have a crappy outlook on life, it’s going to blot out the sun of your blogging world and give your visitors a bad vibe. That’s the last thing you want to do, because it will drive away potential visitors faster than anything else you could possibly do. So be honest in assessing your strengths and weaknesses before you commit to all the work and time involved in creating and maintaining a blog. Maybe you’re the kind of person who doesn’t have a whole lot to say. If that’s the case, you can serve your self-promo needs a lot better by doing the occasional guest blog on someone else’s blog, and visiting comment forums where your books are sold so you can engage with readers that way. The simple truth is, not every author is suited for sustained blogging, and not every author should attempt it. Play up your strengths and make those work for you, whether or not you’re a born blogger.
And with that, I’ll close. For some of you experienced bloggers, none of this will be new and earth-shaking information, but for the many budding authors out there, I hope this saves you a lot of time and trouble trying to figure out what the heck you’re supposed to do with a blog!
Pat Morrison, Penumbra Publishing