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Authors feel like they’re supposed to have a platform, including a blog. Here are some tips for dong all that. (This is a LONG one. Wade through it.)
My blog sucks and I’m kinda clueless about what to do with it…”
Okay, nobody said that… directly.
Indirectly, LOTS of you have. And lots of blogs scream it.
Not to worry. I’m here to help.
I’ve been reading a lot of other authors’ blogs lately. Not because they’re good, although LOTS are, and not to make myself feel better about this blog, although mine is definitely better than some of what I’ve been reading.
I read them to learn.
The suffering writers of these blogs I’ve been reading will, on occasion, mention book sales. 50 sales in a month is the average for people who are working their butt off and that means half of them are selling less than that.
Trust me, I’d have been happy as hell to have had 50 sales in ANY of my first six months. I didn’t have 50 total over my first six months, combined. ZERO is an exaggeration but it’s close.
When I started putting books out I asked other authors what worked for them as far as marketing, etc. Many were happy to give me advice, and I am happy to share that advice with you. Yes, it’s all going to find its way into a How To Market EBooks trilogy and Write Better Books – because that’s what I do. I write and sell books. But you’re getting that information for free right now, aren’t you, smartie!
Here’s some mistakes I see in unsuccessful blogs. They have no followers (well, that’s a chicken and the egg thing) and they have no/few comments. That indicates that they don’t write interesting content OR they don’t know how to attract people to their blog.
My blog had very few followers for about two years. Now, we add new followers to the blog every day. I added almost in the last 90 days. More on that some other time; I didn’t say that to brag. (Okay, a little.)
I can guarantee these bloggers don’t track their stats. They don’t know what traffic the blog gets on given days, and when they promote it on Twitter they don’t know what works and what doesn’t. (Just FYI, I achieved President’s Circle with two different Fortune 500 companies, so I tend to analyze stuff. This is me looking at writer stuff through that business lens.)
I’m not saying I’ve mastered these things, I’m saying I may be a step or two higher on the ladder than most of you are, and it looks like a mountain from there but from here it looks easy-peasy – but only because I languished in the abyss that I intend to save you from.
I’m nice that way.
And if you are a little higher on the ladder than me in a certain area, feel free to edumacate the rest of us, okay? (That’s a made up word from an old joke.) I can get you to this level while we work as a team to get us all to the next one. Wouldn’t it be great to have a hundred successful author friends helping me become more successful? Well, the best way I know to achieve that is to help 100 other author friends become successful. That’s what’s in it for me, see?
Okay, okay! Enough preamble! What do we do? Sorry. I’m a writer. I get wordy.
Social Media, kinda
When you looked at Twitter and asked how to get more followers, Twitterites said to find people with the same interests as you and follow them. That same theory applies to blogs. In fact, just about every rule for one form of social media applies to every type of social media AND to blogs.
If somebody follows your blog, follow their blog in return – within reason. My own blog is currently designed to help authors, and people write about all sorts of things. Puppies? Cool. Photography? Sure. Whips and chains? Um, I’ll be honest, I’ll probably have a peek but I’m not going to be a regular visitor or comment much because…
Comments = GOOD
Comment on their sites and click “like” when they post stuff you like! Duh, right? It’s the golden rule. What do you wish people did on your blog? Read it, like the post, make a comment. Then do that for them! (Granted, some are more prolific than others.)
It takes about 1 minute to read and like a typical blog post, maybe two or three minutes. (If it takes longer, upgrade to your browser.) That means you could read and like about 10 blogs in about 20 minutes, and yes you do have that kind of time. Now, whether you have it once a week or once a month or every day, that’s up to you. My advice? Do it every evening after dinner for two weeks and see the results. You’ll be happy.
HOW to comment
When you comment, make it a worthwhile comment. There are a few blogs on which I always comment at length. Some of you have been the recipient of such comments. I never asked if it was okay and I probably should have, but each lengthy comment I made on YOUR blog was in fact – ready? – an audition for MY blog to YOUR readers! If your readers saw my comment, maybe they liked it enough to click over to my site and read some more of my stuff there, and as a result, follow my blog.
(So maybe, just maybe, you should find and follow some really popular blogs even if they are boring as hell, if they have lots of readers and commenters. Just a thought. Check out anything on HuffPO, a site I generally hate but people read it and there are popular blogs there.)
Now, here are the rules for that. The person’s blog you’re commenting on should already be a friend if you’re going to do this. They don’t have to approve your comment. Second, the comment should be an added value to the readers of that blog, not a damned spam for your own blog. Don’t say “I’m awesome and here’s my link.” Instead, if they are talking about something funny, ADD to the humor with a funny, relevant anecdote of your own that their readers will enjoy. That way, the blog owner gets a benefit from your comment. Golden rule, right? You don’t want spammers; don’t be one. I don’t think I ever posted my blog link. It’s not necessary because…
And network through your network. For example, I mostly follow and comment on WordPress blogs. Anyone there can follow me with a single click when I make an interesting comment. It doesn’t get any easier than that, and while I have nothing against other blog platforms, if I have to jump through a bunch of hoops to subscribe to you, odds are I’m not gonna do it.
Occasionally check your stats and see how you’re doing. That means see what works and do more of it. Post on big days for blog traffic, largely Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday, depending on what you’re posting about, and…
Talk about your blog – the right way
Tell people about your amazing blog post on your other social media sites. This is both harder and easier than you think. For a while, I had my Twitter feed post automatically to my Facebook page. You can do that but don’t tweet too much or FB fans will start to turn away. I stopped doing that and maybe I should restart, I’m not sure, but I am ALWAYS checking my stats so I can quit stumbling around in the dark and get where I wanna be. That is both too boring and too long of a topic to get into here but if you ask me, I’ll explain it. I’m nice that way. (My new Canadian friend – yes, you, New Brunswick – is in awe about how helpful I am. People who have known me a while still find me helpful, but occasionally get tired of me asking for shit, too. I’m no saint. “Waaahhh! Help me write a synopsis.” You’ve seen it. They help. We’ve all become friends. That’s part of this deal. You’ll need a favor, you’ll give a favor. Cue The Godfather music.) And when I learn something, why I post it here for all of you, don’t I?
Okay, where was I?
Oh, other social media sites.
Yeah, so when I write an amazing blog post, I tweet about it with a TinyURL link (so it fits in 140 characters). Wait, I have NO blog readers AND I have NO Twitter followers. Yeah, we were all there once. Like I said, follow people with similar interests and make interesting contributions to the conversation and soon enough you’ll have both. Amplify that by posting your blog onto Facebook and by sending out a popular Instagram link with a cute picture of your dog (my friend Katie’s dog – she’s the photographer friend mentioned in Poggibonsi (sorry, inside info) – her dog has like 20,000 Twitter followers. All she does is post pics of him doing regular dog stuff. But that works if you’re writing about dogs. The rest of us have to be a little more creative.)
Since I scan my Twitter stats, I take the day’s popular tweet and send it to Instagram, using the same hashtags. That tales less than a minute. You have that time. You have a minute, trust me.
Occasionally I’ll take and post a pic while we’re out and about, usually of my kid, but maybe of a hot air balloon or an amazing dock in the keys where dolphins were swimming right up to us. Cos I do interesting stuff – and so do you! (That Sea World picture of my kid with the dolphin? It got like 15,000 RTs, No shit. Crazy. It was worth the harassment from the haters.) My local friends would not think a picture of my kid swimming in our pool was a big deal, but your readers and followers want to get to know you, and hey, when it’s 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) in Colorado Springs or Prince Edward Island, they’ll notice you’re still swimming at Thanksgiving. Tease them, and let them tease you back. Have fun. Act like friends. Yes, on your blog. Why? Because…
Comments matter! More = better
A “Great post, thanks for sharing” comment on somebody’s blog is nice. It helps – a little. I do it all the time and so should you. It takes just a few seconds. But some witty banter goes a long way. Look at that post where I was working on the blurb. It’s one of my most read posts because we were having fun. And don’t take yourself too seriously. Let the OTHER people have the spotlight on your stage. That’s positive encouragement, and people love it. You’ll want to…
Say THANK YOU!
Each commenter gets rewarded by you for playing Reply! That also only takes a moment, but most readers don’t comment at all. They’re intimidated, so when they do, reward them for it. Thank them. Add on to their line of thought. Once they do it a first time, they are much more likely to do it again, and that means…
MORE COMMENTS = more popular, more attention, more everything.
People want to do what other people do. Most readers don’t want to post at all, and they damned sure don’t want to be the first one. If you have ten comments (with nice, happy, encouraging thank you’s) they’re less intimidated. If you have a hundred, that starts to be a top post when people search for topics – and the search engines are your friend, my friend. But baby steps. Walk before you run or you will get overwhelmed quickly. Take on one new thing every two weeks or maybe just once a month until you’re comfortable with it.
So you FOR SURE want to post on your other author friend’s blog posts when they come out – Golden Rule. Don’t be afraid to ask them/remind them/beg them to post on yours. I often mention my friends in my posts because it shows a fun, friendly demeanor here on the blog, and I have always found that readers sense that camaraderie and enjoy it; they want to be part of it.
That’s what you want, too!
Yeah, it’s a lot. There’s more, too. But ya gotta start somewhere. Start by following me. One last tip: ASK a question that encourages readers to make a comment. Like…
What do YOU do to increase your blog traffic and avoid the abyss?.
Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Check out his other works HERE.
And at his blog at www.DanAlatorre.com