Writers like to write, so it’s not a big hardship for most of us (though one does have to balance blogging time with writing-the-next-book time), and you can usually find a blog on an author’s site. Unfortunately, that blog usually isn’t doing much for the author.
Why? Not many people are visiting it.
Before we talk about how to change that, let me make an argument for why a blog is worth working on.
When I released my latest novella this weekend, a steampunk adventure called Peacemaker, I posted an announcement with an excerpt on my blog. I also sent out an email to my newsletter subscribers (I’ve talked about email marketing and newsletters before), subscribers who originally signed up through the form on my blog (in essence, if I didn’t maintain a blog and invite readers to visit, I wouldn’t have any newsletter subscribers!).
Because of those two quick announcements, 200+ people bought Peacemaker the first full day it was out and nearly half of those purchases came through my links (one on the blog post and one in the newsletter). I know this because, as I’ve mentioned before, I use affiliate links to track sales (and get a little extra of a cut from Amazon). Those sales mean that Peacemaker paid for itself (insofar as editing, formatting, and cover art expenses go) in the first day it was out. I had a similar experience last November when I released my third Emperor’s Edge book (if you’re new to my blog and haven’t tried those books yet, the first one is free at Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes). Though that was a full-length novel, and my expenses were close to $1,500, it paid for itself in the first week.
Of course, lots of those sales came through Amazon and other stores, but a lot of them, especially those immediate ones, came from folks who heard about the new release on my blog or from my newsletter.
So, how can you make your blog work for you? Here are a few tips:
- Blog regularly about informative and/or entertaining things — Nobody wants to hear about your writers’ block, your cats, or your favorite dinner recipe (sorry!). Save that stuff for your personal diary-style blog. Your author blog is for selling books. Assume a potential fan is stumbling upon your blog for the first time. What’s there for them? News related to the genre? Interviews with your characters? Interviews with other authors in your genre? Tips related to writing or the book world? Inspirational posts? (You’d be surprised how many readers are aspiring authors themselves, so success stories can be popular, especially when they offer helpful tidbits.)
- Get links back to your blog — I’m not exaggerating when I say maybe 1% of the authors out there do this effectively, and it’s so key. Blogging isn’t a build-it-and-they-will-come-Kevin-Costner movie. You have to promote it, and the best way is by guest blogging or otherwise convincing people to link to your site from theirs. Links are votes of popularity in the eyes of the search engines (make sure to read my old post on search engine optimization), and every link is a potential pathway people can stumble across that leads to your blog.
- Start a newsletter — I know I already mentioned it, but this is also key. Far more of those early purchases that I mentioned came from my newsletter than from my blog post. You could even argue that the main reason to have a blog is to get people onto your mailing list. Here’s the link to my newsletter basics article again in case you ignored it the first time!
- Use your ebooks to promote your blog and newsletter — I put my blog address and social media links in the afterword of my ebooks and invite fans to come say hi. I get mail (through my contact form) from these rocking people, so I know it works!
- Display your book covers prominently on your blog, along with links to Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords (at the least) — I’m amazed at how often I visit an author’s blog or website, only to have to surf through several pages to get to a link that’ll take me to Amazon. I’m a Kindle-gal, and I really just want to get right to Amazon and download a sample, because that’s what’s going to sell me (or not) on the book. Don’t put a lot of page-clicks between your visitor and a bookstore where he/she can sample or buy. You can have excerpts on your site, too, but don’t make people go through them to find the store link — lots of folks prefer downloading samples to their e-readers.
- Use social media sites to promote your blog posts — Now that you’re writing interesting content, let people know about it. A lot of authors simply try to sell their books via Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites, but people join those sites to socialize, not to whip out their credit cards. They’re more likely to check out free information (and free ebooks, but that’s another story), such as can be found on your blog. And they might just retweet/share those posts, helping you increase the visibility to your blog (other news-hungry bloggers might see your post and include it in a round-up, too — this gets you free links to your site).
- Do a product launch via your blog — I haven’t talked much about product launches yet (I’m not a hardcore marketer myself, and I don’t do a lot in this arena), but the idea is to get people excited about your new book before it comes out. A couple of weeks before you publish, you might want to post the cover art, then an excerpt, then a longer excerpt, etc. If your snippets are interesting, you might just pick up a few new readers this way, and you’ll have your existing readers ready to go out and get the new book on Day 1.
All right, I could go on (and on and on…), but these are the basics. If you put time into building and promoting a blog, it can pay you back in spades by making it much easier to sell books. Even when I’m not actively promoting a new release, I get a small but steady trickle of sales (measured through those affiliate links) through my blog.
Do you have any blog tips you’d like to add? Please let us know below!