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How to Use Your Blog to Sell More Books

| Posted in Blogging |

14

Whether you’re e-publishing on your own or being published through a house, you’ve probably heard that a blog is a must for book promotion.

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!

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Comments (14)

A great source of useful information, as usual, Lindsay. thanks for this. I resisted blogging for a long time but I finally found my niche and I’m really enjoying writing my weekly posts.

Thanks, Margaret! For the longest time I couldn’t *find* your blog on your site, hmm! I’ll have to remember to stop by more often now. 🙂

Wow! That’s great news! Congrats! Posts like that make me want to work on getting more subscribers (and then I get distracted by actual writing or the new shiny episode of Spartacus)

Hah, the spirit is there anyway. 😉

GREAT information. It’s true, too. I’m more of a blogger-turned-author than the other way around, so much of this is pretty easy to do (though not always easy to keep up with!).

I wrote a post called “The Secret to Building a Blog People Love (http://www.livehacked.com/blogging-business/pillar-content-the-secret-to-building-a-blog-people-love/ ) that might help other authors as well.

I especially like your rule of making it as easy as possible for people to find your books (products). In sales, that’s key: make sure it’s as easy as possible for people to buy.

Makes sense.

Thanks,
Nick

Blogs are more effective than anything else. I know almost all of the sales I made of my first story came off of my blog. I need to promote my books a little more than I do, I think.

Thanks for this, I have some work to do. I like to stack my posts in Hoot Suite, you can stack up to a year’s worth, it is a free service and keeps you “out there” even when you are on vacation or asleep. The sites track when your target audience is on line, you can time the realeses for maximum exposure in that demographic.

Great post Lindsay! As always!!

🙂

I just finished reading Kristen Lamb’s “Are You There Blog, It’s Me Writer.” It’s a great book on social media!

A couple of simple things she suggested was:

*Profile your reader: Ask yourself, when a reader is not reading your book, what do they like to do? Make a list of their activities, hobbies, and interests and target them when writing your blogs.

*List tags you want associated with your author brand. Use these when you post your blogs and don’t forget to use your author name in your tags. (That way, Google will find it easier to find you)

*Make a list of blog topics (about 100) and choose the best ones. Then, take a day or two to write a bunch ahead of time so you can use your writing time for writing.

There are so many other tips she shares in the book. Definitely worth reading! Or check out her blog! http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/

http://www.amazon.com/Are-There-Blog-Writer-ebook/dp/B004ZUIUFI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1331357651&sr=8-1

[…] done lots of posts talking about how to use your blog to sell more books. Once you start getting visitors to your site, you’ll want to make sure it’s easy for […]

May I suggest an additional step for making prominent links to your books? Add specific links for different regional Amazon sites if possible. I am in the UK and if I click any of your Amazon links and try to buy your book there, I’ll be told that I can only buy Kindle books through the .co.uk site – and the link they offer to redirect me just dumps me onto the main Amazon website, meaning that I have to now search for the book title/author rather than just going straight to the page. It’s only a small extra hassle for me, but it does interrupt that feeling of “oh, I’ll just click on this quickly to grab the free book/buy the first one and read it later” – and sometimes it’s enough to make me put off the actual clicking until “later” – when I may forget about it.

Thanks for the suggestion, Brightwanderer! I’ve been thinking about doing that (I have seen other authors do so), though I didn’t want to clutter things up with a lot of links, as we’ve got Amazon UK, DE, IT, ES, and FR as possible places to link to. It’s too bad Amazon can’t simply redirect folks to the right page!

[…] why did I start? Well, I want to be a writer. People in the know, like Seth Godin, Joanna Penn, Lindsay Buroker, Writer’s Digest and many others say I have to have a platform, a brand. And they say I have […]

Hi, I’m the author of “Thomas Holland and the Prophecy of Elfhaven” a middle-grade fantasy with a sci fi twist. I’m reading your blog post on the topic of “How to use your blog to sell more books.” I don’t currently have a blog. I’ve gotten lots of great reviews but have virtually no sales (other than ones I sell myself at book signing events.) You say a blog is much more effective than a website. How many followers read your blog? How long did it take to build such a following?
Any tips would be greatly appreciated!!
Thanks, K. M. Doherty

Hi KM,

A blog isn’t really different from a website except that it’s update regularly, rather than there simply being an about page, a list of books page, etc. You’re sharing news and maybe your thoughts on the industry or on other books/movies in your genre. A blog can help bring in traffic from the search engines, as people search for terms related to what you’re posting about, but it does take a year or more of posting regularly (and getting links to your site) for that to occur reliably. Traffic to the blog CAN help sell books, but most people will tell you that it’s a lot of work for a smallish reward. There tend to be more effective ways to promote books. If you enjoy blogging do it, but if the only reason you want to do it is to sell books, you might be disappointed.

Good luck!

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