What is a blog? And how do you start one? This past weekend, I gave a talk to a group of aspiring writers on “The Writer’s Life.” During the Q&A session, one person referred to my section on book marketing. “I don’t understand about blogs. Can you explain more about them?”
So I thought this would be a good time for a review of the principles. I’ve been blogging for over ten years. I regard it as a live journal that includes glimpses into your life such as travels, hobbies, other fun activities or musings on life in general. Plus, as a writer, you can offer tips on writing craft and marketing and share the creative process. So here are some items to consider.
Define Your Purpose.
Are you aiming to build an author platform? Do you want to be recognized as an expert in your field? To engage with readers? Or to have other writers look to you for advice? Ask yourself why you want to start a blog.
Determine Your Goals.
Do you mean to increase book sales? Gain a substantial number of followers? Attract comments on each blog? Receive requests for guest posts? What’s your benchmark of success?
How often do you intend to post? What days of the week are best? What time during the day will more people likely read your post? How long should each post be? Check your analytics as time goes on and make adjustments accordingly.
While you are writing a book, jot down blog topics related to your theme, research, and writing process. These will be useful either to show your story in progress or to provide fodder for blog tours when your new release comes out. Meanwhile, determine how your content can add value to people’s lives. In what way can your personal anecdotes inspire others? Some authors set certain days for specific blog topics. For example, one day they might post recipes. Another day they might bring in a guest blogger. Or perhaps they do author interviews. Excerpts, book reviews, or trivia related to a particular hobby or personal interest might fill in other slots. I like to do conference workshop recaps. Or you can write posts as they come to you.
Acquire a Site.
When you’re ready to start, register at WordPress.com or Blogger for a free site. Or add a blog to your website. Become familiar with the features and start posting.
Link the Blog to Your Social Media Sites.
Not only should visitors be able to tweet and share each particular article, but your posts can be linked to your Twitter and Facebook pages. Check your Settings for how to enable these features or ask your Web designer to add the proper Plug-In.
What Pages Should Your Blog Site Contain?
Keep in mind that visitors to your blog, if separate from your website, might not visit you elsewhere. So consider what Pages you’ll want to have. Here are some suggestions: Welcome or Home Page; About (Bio); Appearances; Book Trailers; Books List (with series books in order); Contact (your email); Giveaways. In the sidebar, you can show your book covers, a Blog Roll with links to other authors’ sites, a Search box, a Subscribe button, Social Networking Icons, and an RSS feed button.
Include Photos in your Posts.
Photos will draw more hits, but be careful of copyright issues. Upload your own photos. Obtain photos at royalty-free sites or at least make sure you provide attribution.
Use tags with keywords and put keywords in your text to drive traffic to your site.
How to Gain Followers
- Post often. Some people set themes, like “Recipe Monday” or “Guest Blogger Wednesday” or “Photo Friday.” Be consistent in your approach and keep your material current.
- Have a clear and catchy headline for each post.
- End your posts with a question to stimulate discussion.
- Don’t use your blog solely to promote your books. You’re building a community of readers who want to get to know you, or else you are establishing yourself as an expert by offering useful material. Share new release info, reviews, and contests sparingly.
- Comment on other people’s blogs.
- Invite guests who have a following.
- Always respond to comments and respect other people’s opinions.
- On occasion, offer a prize drawing from commenters.
- If you get a lot of comments on certain types of posts, steer your blog in that direction. Be responsive to readers. Note what engenders interest and what does not.
- Be careful what you put out there. This is a public post. Avoid politics, religion, and any mention of personal business or issues you don’t want to share.
- Always be respectful of other industry professionals.
- Include links and images in your posts to raise visibility.
Index Your Blog
When your blog is a few years old, you might want to reissue an updated article. Keeping records of the topics, categories, and dates will help you retrieve these files. I suggest you write your blog in Word and save the posts by month and year. It’s imperative to keep your own blogs on your computer so you don’t lose them if there’s an online snafu. Then keep a separate file that’s an index so you can quickly search topics.
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