“Writers should not write blogs for writers!” some expert declared.
Instead, write for readers!
I understand the argument, but what about writing about where your passion lies? I’ve written about writing for years now, drawing on my experience first as a journalist, publishing insider, freelancer, then as an editor and finally as an independent author who publishes his own work. I’ll be coming out with a book about writing later this year, so that’s one solution to the problem of writing for writers. But I keep thinking about that advice to write your blog for readers. I think I just figured out why it doesn’t matter.
Blog marketing does not matter. An author’s blog is usually something you discover after you’ve already found the author. Seth Godin’s blog is popular, but I found out about him through media first. Despite his high traffic, JA Konrath is sure that A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing doesn’t net him any new readers. He writes for writers and they come for his opinions and information, not his books. The readers of his blog and the readers of his books are two subsets of his readership with very little overlap. True, I read voraciously, but I still haven’t got around to reading any of his books. (Or John Scalzi’s or Chuck Wendig’s, either, though I love their blogs.) And what of all those successful novelists who blog little or not at all?
John Locke came up with a blogging strategy that helped him sell a lot of books, but he didn’t blog every day to do it. In fact, Locke blogged sparingly. He crafted each blog so he could leave it up for months and, using keyword searches and Twitter, drive traffic to his blog by going out and getting potentially interested parties. (Read Locke’s book on marketing to find out more about that.)
There is a caveat to these grand pronouncements. I’m not saying don’t blog. I’m saying that it’s unreasonable to expect a tiny engine to move that mountain. You need a website, but fairly static pages might do. Yes, I know (we all know by now, don’t we?) that a blog that changes often and has a lot of posts is smiled upon by search engine spiders and that boosts rankings. But that website you love so much isn’t the burning bush that’s converting believers. That website is where you send readers when you attract them by other means.
What should you spend more time on (and by you, I mean me)? Well, tomorrow night (Sunday at 9 PM) I’m going to have a chat on Blogtalk Radio with Sandi’s Tuttle. Tune in here. So there’s that.
Have a podcast, make personal appearances, show up on other people’s podcasts, do campus radio, do press releases (and make follow-up calls when they ignore you.)
Time for an angry tangent: A reader on a forum called on indie authors to send out press releases because she didn’t think we were brave enough or bothering to do so. She didn’t know what the heck she was talking about. Traditional media has a history of ignoring us because they don’t realize there are no gates to keep anymore. They’ll get over that. Too late, but they’ll get it. In the meantime, I’d love to sit down with that reader who thought we don’t do enough to help our cause and let her know all the things we do any given day, many of us after the full-time job is done. As if sending out a press release was a brilliant and heretofore unknown marketing strategy. She does not know the struggle. Indie authors are some of the bravest people I know in business. That grenade-thrower didn’t understand that just because you can read doesn’t mean you know anything about the writing biz.
There are plenty of things you can do that could help your career more than writing a blog: Optimize your sales page on Amazon so readers can find you, for instance. Play with Amazon categories to get listed in the top ten of a subcategory to get traction. According to Klout, Twitter and Facebook help me reach more people than my blogs do (and my Goodreads blog presence doesn’t make a dent.) Becoming a star on YouTube could help more than a blog. If I’d starred on SCTV and become rich and famous at 22, I’d be better off now. (Time machine’s broken, so I’ll have to fix this the old-fashioned way: I’m going to need a DeLorean, a broken town clock and a bolt of lightning.)
What else can you do? You can do all the things you’ve heard about (or have already done): guest post, blog hop, do giveaways, comment up a storm, use free day promotions (to less and less effect), hold contests, pay for ads (though I rarely recommend that), send out more copies to reviewers, contact book bloggers, do signings, approach bookstores, make an app, cultivate powerful friends, save the life of a celebrity or write a book about cute cats.
So why blog? To serve the burning passion of a thousand stars going nova, I suppose. To express. To help. To have an active site for readers where I can send people who are interested in finding out more about me and my books and my process. On this site, I write for writers. On my author site, yes, there are plenty of links to my books, but mostly I talk to readers directly through my podcast. (Every week this summer and fall, I read a new chapter of my crime thriller Bigger Than Jesus for free. Those who can’t wait for the next instalment can get it all at once here.) Most of all, I write my blogs to discover what I think about things. (Like today.)
Do I expect any writers will convert to my book readership? A precious few, if they like my voice here because there’s some transfer of style in my other writing. No matter what I write, I’m a fan of twisting expectations, sneaky surprises and lots of jokes. I’ll expect most conversions will come when I publish the non-fiction books about writing. There are also niche blogging opportunities. For instance, I think if you’re a crime novelist and you blog about forensics in depth, you might gain interested readers from your blog to your books. Niche marketing is a buzzword, yes, but it does mean something.
The single most important thing you can do to help your career is write your next book.
If your blog is getting in the way of your book, then it’s time to take another look at your priorities.
And by “your”, I mean “my”*
*More on this tomorrow…
- Ultimate Blog Challenge: Can you blog a book? Sure you can. (chazzwrites.com)
- Author Blog Challenge 21: My Top 20 Best (Worst?) Advice for Authors (chazzwrites.com)
- You’ve Got Questions – Do Writers Need to Blog? (wosushi.wordpress.com)
- Five Writing Blogs Worth Reading Part Three (moniqueegelhoff.wordpress.com)
- It’s Not Kissing Up, it’s Promo (plantageneta.wordpress.com)
- Ultimate Blog Challenge: Top 10 things I wish I didn’t know about readers (chazzwrites.com)
- Virtual Blog Tours: What They are and How to Use Them to Gain Traffic. (thepatientdreamer.com)
- Author Blog Challenge 19: Choose how to grow your author platform (chazzwrites.com)
- Author Blog Challenge 10: How to make me want to spread your word (chazzwrites.com)
- The Indie Authors That Light Up My Kindle Fire (amberjeromenorrgard.com)
- Ultimate Blog Challenge: Writing Books on Writing (chazzwrites.com)
- Answer: How do we get non-writers to read? (joshmosey.wordpress.com)