When it comes to marketing and promotion, I’ve found one of the best (and free!) tools is a regular blog. This lovely bit of self-pushing is a boon to your writing if you do it right. Best of all, you’re in complete control of the whole thing.
I started my blog as soon as Alien Embrace, my first published book, was signed to a contract. If I’d had good sense, I would have started it beforehand, gaining a few followers and some readership to jumpstart the promo process even earlier. If you haven’t published your first book yet but have every intention of doing so, I advise you to start your blog now.
You can set up a blog for free at several websites. You’ll find easy-to-use templates and designs and a huge number of tools at your disposal. Obviously, you can see the one I went with. Blogger is easy to use, which gets high marks from this tech-challenged gal. I set this whole thing up all by myself, with no help at all. And with so many people into writing blogs these days, you no doubt have several friends who can tell you the high points of their choices.
But what makes a successful blog? What you put into it, of course. I think a blog, whether from an established writer or a newbie, has to do several things to be a winner. It has to promote, inform, and entertain your readers. These often overlap; sometimes a single blog will do all three at once.
You want repeat traffic and you want to constantly attract new traffic. So let’s look at these ingredients, one at a time.
Blogging to Promote
Okay, this seems like a no-brainer. You’re trying to sell books. If you haven’t published yet, you’re trying to sell yourself as a great writer, to build that reader base.
Promoting takes many different forms. It can be as simple as displaying the cover of your book. Re-posting a terrific review is a great way to push your story. Announcing a book release is an obvious form of promotion, as is posting the links where people can purchase your work. Even posting a free short story can create buzz for your writing in general.
I target specific days on my blog for promotion. WIP (Work in Progress) Wednesday creates early buzz about books I’m still writing. First Four Friday and Six Sentence Sunday are used to post short excerpts from books both finished and still in draft stage. Random Saturdays might feature an ‘interview’ with a character from an upcoming book. And because most of these are routinely scheduled, my readers know when to check for their favorite articles. I’ve also recently created separate pages that tell the new or would-be reader about all my books and the characters who inhabit them.
Promoting is the biggest job your blog does for you. Promoting informs your followers of what’s coming up, what’s going on, and what they’ve missed. Ah yes, we’ve crossed into that second major component of the blog…
Blogging to Inform
Your readers need information. They need to know where to buy your books. They need to know what they can expect from your books. They need updates on when your books will be available. All this is obvious.
But informational blogging can go outside the realm of chasing the almighty bestseller list too. What am I selling you right here, right now with this tutorial? Not one darn thing. Tutorial Tuesday is strictly informational to help other writers as best I can based on my experience. I decided to put this out when I kept getting emails from mostly unpublished writers looking for advice on breaking into the marketplace. And it’s a popular feature as far as blog hits are concerned, so someone is reading it!
Best of all, the information aspect is a two-way street. Blogger has statistical breakdowns for me as to which blogs generate the most interest and where my audience is, allowing me to hone my efforts. I receive feedback via comments and polls. Without these tools, I would be flailing around in the dark, unsure of what is working and what isn’t.
Blogging to Entertain
You cannot live without this part. You can promote and inform until your fingers fall off from pounding on the keyboard, but if you’re not entertaining the readers, they won’t bother with your blog.
An example of pure entertainment on my blog was Monday Man Time, now suspended. I used to post pics of scantily clad men (and sometimes not clad at all). Why? Because we enjoy looking at those fine bods … and those boys worked so hard to look that good, so we should reward them, right? They’re such nice guys to do that for us. However, I stopped posting it because I realized I was using photographers’ works without their express permission. Piracy is a sore spot for me, and I was behaving no better than the people who go online and download my books for free.
Give the readers something fun. I post a Kalquorian Word of the Week and sexy quotes from my books. I’ve got something special in the works starting next month as well that is all about entertaining regular visitors to my blog. It’s a secret for now, so I can’t share the specifics yet. You’ll have to check back to see what I’m up to!
You could do something for pure entertainment on your blog like a weekly joke or quote or funny Youtube video. The main thing is to get traffic to your site so the audience will see those bits of promotion too.
Blogging Bits and Pieces
A few other notes on blogging to promote your work:
Get a backlog going: Before you embark on your blogging adventure, do yourself a favor and put together at least five articles. I got this from a successful blogger who has a huge following. There are going to be days when you simply can’t put two words on the screen or life has gotten in the way leaving you no time to write. If you have a regularly scheduled blog to put out, that can be a problem. With several blogs in reserve, you’re prepared for those high and dry times. I did not do this, and in the early days of my blog, I sometimes went as long as a month without a new entry. That’s a good way to have readers give up on you, and you do not want that.
Frequency of blogs: Some people do a blog once a week. Some three days a week. I’m apparently insane. I post at least five, sometimes more days a week. When I hyped the release of my last three Clans of Kalquor books, I posted four times a day – three of those posts were tease excerpts from the books. And the hits were over the top. It’s up to you how often you blog, but do yourself and your readers a favor: post on a schedule. As I’ve mentioned I do Six Sentence Sunday, Tutorial Tuesday, WIP Wednesday, First Four Friday, and random Saturday. My repeat traffic knows what to expect and when to expect it, and they appreciate it.
Making extra money: Blogger has a program called AdSense in which you can host advertisements on your page and get paid to do so. I know a woman who makes her entire income from doing this with her wildly successful and humorous blog. I’m sure the other blog hosting sites have similar programs. Unfortunately, if you post the kinds of things I do (adult material inappropriate for anyone under 18), you cannot take part in this program. But if you keep it clean, it is an avenue of revenue.
I’ve been able to cash in on one perk via my blog. By putting a review site’s banner on it, I was given a free headline to promote my books on their site. Pretty cool, and free advertising space rocks any day of the week. Plus the awesome cover artist who does my self-pubbed stuff gives me a discount for putting her banner up.
Promote your blog: Your blog promotes your writing, but you need to promote the blog itself. Put the link to it everywhere you can think of. My official website has the link. I put the web address on the last page of my books. It’s in the signature of my emails. If I am interviewed by anyone, I provide the link. My link is up at Goodreads, Amazon, and anywhere else I am able to put it. Every entry I make to my blog I tweet the link to, which automatically goes to my Facebook page. It’s a link frenzy for me, and it has been paying off. My hits have grown every month.
The blog is definitely my number one go-to for promoting. It works well for me, as it might for you too. If blogging is not your thing and the thought just makes you cringe, I suggest you at least set up one to announce important events in your writing, such as publication, buy links, etc. Every free opportunity to build your reader base is an opportunity you don’t want to miss.