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7 Blogging Mistakes Authors Make

| Posted in Blogging |

21

Whether you’re traditionally published or self-published, if you’re an author, you’ve probably been told you need to blog. There’s a reason for that. A blog can be a great promotional tool if you know what you’re doing.

By tracking my sales via affiliate links, I know that an average of 3-4 ebook sales a day originate from my blog (I also make some extra change as an Amazon affiliate when I promote other people’s books). While that’s a small number compared to overall sales, I think it’s a nice reminder that blogging is worth it and can help an author increase the size of her audience.

When I talk about blogging, I try to keep the posts positive, but I know it can be useful to get a list of what-not-to-do suggestions as well. I’m offering up “7 Blogging Mistakes Authors Make” as a general guideline, coming from someone who blogged for a living for seven years before turning to writing stories full-time.

Common Blogging Mistakes Authors Make

1. The blog fails to offer something of value for the audience

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve checked out authors’ most recent blog posts via their Twitter links (often they’ve retweeted something of mine, and I want to return the favor), and I get to the post and think…hm, I can’t imagine many people finding this interesting or useful.

You can “make it” as a blogger by writing about any number of topics. The important thing is that you can answer the question, “What’s in it for visitors?” Every post should inform or entertain (maybe both).

If you’re a fiction scribe, it may make most sense to focus on your genre (you could do anything from reviews of movies, tv shows, and books in your field to interviews with popular authors to making up lists of books you love and that everyone should try), but there are lots of authors who have done well giving tips on writing, the publishing business, or how to get started with self-publishing. (If, as a fiction writer, you decide to blog about non-fiction, I recommend making it related to the biz — a cooking blog probably isn’t going to sell many copies of your space opera adventure for you.)

You may find that your blog evolves over time, and that’s fine. Just keep a pulse on who your readers are and what they want. I started out exclusively writing about self-publishing and what I was doing in terms of book promotion, but as I sold more books and more actual readers started visiting, I began mixing in news and teasers from my upcoming projects.

2. There’s no attempt to retain visitors or turn them into book buyers

Time to be honest. We authors are an arrogant bunch. We think that people will read one of our books and immediately put us into the stalk-this-person-relentlessly-so-I-can-buy-their-new-books-the-instant-they-come-out category. It’s wishful thinking. How many authors do you feel that way about? And, of those authors, how many only became die-hard favorites after you read five or ten books by them?

A blog is even less likely to make a lasting impression. Don’t assume people who surfed in from Twitter or another blog’s link will remember to come back of their own accord. Encourage people to sign up for your RSS feed, to “like” your Facebook page, to follow you on Twitter, and (perhaps most important) to sign up for your newsletter (you’ve read my Newsletters 101 post, right?). And, yes, I could do all of those things better myself!

3. There’s not enough author in the author blog

I’ve visited a lot of indie author blogs that are full of guest posts, interviews, and book promotion tidbits for other authors on book blog tours. There’s nothing wrong with networking with writing buddies and helping each other out, but those kinds of posts on your blog aren’t going to help you sell your book

I suggest keeping this type of content to a one-day-a-week (or less) type of thing and making sure most of the posts are filled with your voice and your words on a topic that matters to you. As I said, people want to be informed and/or entertained, but they also want to get to know you and come along on your journey. If they like your voice on your blog, they’re going to be more likely to try your books (I’ve had lots of nice folks tell me things along the lines of, “I don’t read fantasy, but I tried your books after reading your blog, and I ended up liking them.”

4. The blog posts are infrequent

For a blog to grow, you need to publish new content on a regular basis. You’ll get more traffic from the search engines that way, you’ll have more to plug on the social media networks, and you’ll get people coming back (most people will stop checking a blog that rarely has new content).

A lot of authors get frustrated, trying to find time to blog and engage in social media and work on the next book. You may need to choose one or the other. That’s okay. It’s probably better not to do a blog than to do a half-ass blog full of content from/about other people.

There are authors who sell extremely well and who don’t blog at all.

5. The author isn’t doing enough (effective) blog promotion

Only in baseball movies from the 80s, do the words, “If you build it, they will come” ring true. You have to build a quality blog and then let people know it’s there.

Guest posting is one way to do this. Being active on social media sites such as Twitter is another way. Applying some basic search engine optimization principles will set up your blog in a way that it’s more likely to rank for various terms on Google and the other search sites.

6. Blog comments are turned off

Comments are a little like book reviews in that most people who read your post won’t leave them, but those who are inclined to voice their opinions like a chance to do so. Often, those opinions can add useful information to the conversation. They can even help bring more traffic to your site (the more content on your site, the more likely one of your pages will show up for someone’s Google search).

Comments can be useful when it comes to social proof as well. If I visit someone’s blog, and they’re getting 50 comments per post, I might assume that the person knows what they’re talking about and that I should seriously check them out. If I see comments off, it’s akin to seeing zero comments. For all I know, no one is paying attention to the blog, and maybe I’d be better off doing the same.

Beyond those aspects, having comments off can be seen as kind of an F-you by some folks, since blogs have, from their earliest days, offered commenting as a built-in feature. People are accustomed to being able to leave a note with a link back to their site as part of the deal (if they leave a useful comment, maybe someone will like what they have to say, and follow the link back to their site). Remember the “what’s in it for me?” question that your blog post should answer? For some people, “a chance to leave a comment with a link attached” is part of it.

7. The blog has barriers to commenting

Things like CAPTCHA annoy the tar out of me, and I’ve heard complaints from many others as well. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve just backed out without leaving a comment because I couldn’t get something I could read. People’s time is valuable so it’s not a good idea to put obstacles in their path, especially when they’re doing you a favor by leaving a comment (even if they don’t say anything earth-shattering, the fact that they’re there makes your blog look more popular, eh?)

If you’re worried about spam, you probably shouldn’t be. I get more than 10,000 visitors a month to this blog, and spam isn’t a problem because Akismet (a built-in plug-in you get when you install WordPress on your own hosting account) catches it. Spam is about as subtle as a sledgehammer, so it’s not hard for a program like that to detect. Questionable comments (those with links, typically) get held for manual approval, but that doesn’t take me more than a few seconds each week. If you find that spam is a problem when you remove CAPTCHA, then it’s probably time to invest in your own hosting account ($5 a month at the most) and a (free) WordPress blog that lives on your own server.

It’s good to remember that people are doing you a favor by taking time out of their days to read and comment on your blog, so it’s worth making things as easy as possible for them. Then they’ll be more likely to come back!

Okay, those are seven big blogging mistakes I see a lot of authors making. If you’d like to add to this list, feel free to do so below. If you’re looking for more blogging advice, please see my posts on How to Use Your Blog to Sell More Books and 5 Tips for Bringing More Readers to Your Blog.

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Comments (21)

I am partial to #3. I want to read a blog to get a feel for the author. That is the most important decision I make in choosing the blogs I follow – the content is actually second. I read blogs on topics that aren’t of great interest, but the author is unique and personable.

For low-volume blogs, like mine, I think that “moderated comments” are enough. A comment doesn’t appear to the public until the moderator approves it. Nothing untoward accidentally gets through.

I’ve looked at WordPress a little and I have stuck with Blogger from Google so far. Very easy and I already have a Google account anyway.

I also am not interested in setting up my own server. What I want to do is write. I don’t want to have to become Mr. Tech again just to do that.

Aw, you’ll want a site of your own at some point, I think! At the very least, putting “Visit the author at blahblah.blogspot.com” at the end of the book doesn’t look as professional as yourname.com.

Also, a fellow indie just had his Blogger blog utterly wiped out of existence with no warning from Google. I’m guessing it’s because he was selling advertising to other authors, but people run Adsense on Blogger so I don’t see why that would be a problem. Either way, he now has to start from scratch on his own server after over a year of building links, followers, and plugging it on social media sites. You never know when Google will change the rules on you, and you don’t have much recourse if your site is hosted on their servers.

I’m not saying that you’re wrong. I’m just saying that I don’t like HAVING to add all of the technical stuff to my writing time.

I agree about the yourname.com thing, though. It’s well worth it, though it may take a while to come up with one, depending on how common your name is. My name took a while (maybe the other Peter Spenser person finally died or something) and I couldn’t get my name at all on Twitter, so there I’m @spenserwrites (which is O.K. until I change professions).

You also have to remember to USE your yourname.com. I got so used to using my blogger URL that I often still forget to change it when it pops up in autofilled fields.

The other good thing about yourname.com is that everyone else can link to it, specifically. Then you link it to wherever you want. If that changes (if you go from Blogger to WordPress), then it’s only you who has to change the forwarding info at your name registrar. All of your fans don’t have to do anything.

I just wrote a nice long answer to you and it disappeared, so I’m going back to my trailer and cry.

WordPress sites that you have on your own host server allow you to run any type of commercial activity. That way you have complete control over what you do (provided it’s legal).

I am making the move to my own domain. It’s the smart thing to do. I don’t have time to start over, and with a regular backup routine, it’s not hard to recover from catastrophe. My advantage is that my background is 30 years plus as a computer field engineer. It comes easy for me.

Very useful comments, particularly 1). I’ve just started a “writer’s blog” and even at the beginning it’s not easy to know what will interest an audience that hasn’t yet appeared. Looking at other blogs is useful, but only so far, after all, a blog that just repeats what other people are saying won’t get far. I guess at first the trick would be to vary posts and see what the reaction is to each – maybe no or few comments means low interest – e.g. I probably won’t blog about evolution a second time :). 4) is a big issue. I got up at 5.30 this morning so I’d have time to write a post!

Hey Lindsay,
Great thoughts as usual. I would add a #8 to that, though it is kind of related to #4, and that is:

The author grows impatient with low traffic.

This could very easily lead to a drop off in posts and a loss of desire to bother with the blog. It is part of the whole package of being unknown, and I know it was very frustrating for me during my first few months.

I think that you need to give it time, be patient, think in terms of months rather than days. If after three or four months you are still only getting five visitors a week, then you definitely need to check to see what you’re doing wrong–and after reading this post, it should not be because you are making one of these seven mistakes.

It is definitely true that this all takes time, Brondt. There are always exceptions, but blogs can take a year or more to really get rolling, insofar as getting lots of visitors goes.

Some people get frustrated because they don’t approach e-publishing and book promotion as the beginning of a long career. They read about the Konraths and Lockes and think it’s a get-rich-quick deal. That doesn’t happen for many of us!

Great post Lindsay!

Just so you can see real evidence of how blogging well as an author can impact sales, you should check out self-published author, Susan Ee. She has written only 1 YA fantasy title, titled Angelfall, and is selling thousands of ebook copies per month (a lot in paperback, too).

Her blog: http://susanee.com/

I noticed that she does everything right, and even has two author newsletters, one strictly to inform when her 2nd book will be available.

Here’s a link to her current rank on Amazon in Kindle Store/Kindle Ebooks/Fiction/Fantasy: http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/digital-text/158583011/ref=pd_zg_hrsr_kstore_1_5_last It’s currently #1.

She’s also ranked #318 in the paid Kindle Store.

Yes, and along with everything else, she has a kick-ass cover on her book! It MAKES you want to look inside.

As I say in my own book, a good cover will call to a browsing customer, “Look here. Try me.” Then, if the writing is any good at all….

If only more indies would realize just how important that is.

Great example. Thanks for the links, Cathy!

I *think* I follow all of those tips! Go me!

Though readers of my blog entries will probably quickly conclude that I have an addiction to parentheses and need to visit the Betty Ford Punctuational Center. My books aren’t nearly so parentheses-happy, I promise!

A bunch of guests got lumped recently, but, oh well. It happens from time to time. Yeah, make it easy for folks to talk to you.

Useful. Thanks.

Lindsay, my belated thanks for the great advice. Very useful. I’ve set up my site a while ago, tweaked with it, but have blogged only a few times. That’s something I intend to change ASAP. I’ve spent too much time messing with my themes and not enough actually blogging.

Thank you, Lindsey, for timely advice! I will be tweaking my own blog and habits. It’s a lot of work!

Good advice, Lindsay! And timely! I started my blog just this week and hope to avoid major mistakes. Will tune in for more tips. Thanks!

[…] aimed at readers, try Lindsay Buroker (there are links to more articles at the end of this one): 7 Blogging Mistakes Authors Make | Lindsay Buroker Pauline M Ross: a reviewer on speculative fiction blog Fantasy Review Barn Reply […]

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