Wednesday, February 25, 2009

To blog...or not to blog...that is the question

I'm the first to admit that promoting a book takes a lot of time and effort--too much in fact. Many authors barely get a website up, let alone a website and a blog. To further complicate matters, many people today are using blogs as their websites. So I thought it was time for me to blog on….well blogging.

Both myself and Michael are coming to blogging relatively late in the game. We only started to blog this year (I know strange huh). Not surprising my blog focuses on business related activities and Michael’s on the craft of writing and his books specifically. Since I’m by no means a blog expert I’ve brought in a guest to help discuss this important topic: Jo-Anne Vandermeulen. Jo-Anne in a romance writer and also offers professional advice and marketing assistance to authors. I was a guest blogger on her site recently and she has been gracious enough to return the favor. Jo-Anne has two blogs:

I developed a series of questions on blogging and Jo-Anne answered them. Here are the results:

1. What are the advantages of blogs?

  1. Multi-Functional – A blog can work as a website. A tab at the top of the blog site can guide the viewer to your web page.

  2. User Friendly – You feel more in the driver’s seat. A blog is easy to create and you can do it yourself with no html skills. You don’t need software or an expensive web designer.

  3. Timely – By updating regularly, you can stay current with the ‘needs’ of your audience.

  4. Interactive and Personal – A blog is a great way to stay in touch with your readers in a more informal manner. The audience is involved by submitting comments. You can generate a following with this connection, discover what they want so you can delve into the requested direction of their interests or concerns, and YOU get more exposure through marketing yourself/your book(s).

  5. A Showcase of Your Ability – You write and they read for themselves your awesome abilities, style, and voice.

  6. Free – Many blog hosts are free.

  7. Higher Search Engine Exposure – More exposure for you. Using links and tabs, each key word will pop up in search engines.

  8. Easy to Maintain – Through expert technicians, free and quick assistance is there if needed. They will provide answers to any questions and solve any concerns.

2. What are some of the popular blog platforms?
I would need to be experienced in many different blog platforms to recommend the best. I use Wordpress for ‘Conquer All Obstacles’, but we have chosen Blogger for 'Premium Promotional Services. Popular blog platforms are:

  • Wordpress
  • Blogger
  • Typepad
  • Tripod
  • Squarespace

3. What kinds of things should I have on my blog?
You must ask yourself: What type of blog do I want to write? For me to ‘conquer all obstacles’, I want to promote myself. My blog has:

A.) First/Feature Page or Home Page

  • Updated posts with information my followers will find useful. Try and put your feet in your target audiences’ shoes. The key to promoting yourself or your book is to understand your customers and their buying habits.

Depending on what you want as your focus will determine your first/feature page. If you want to promote yourself/book(s), make sure you at least either expose your picture/cover of your book on the sidebar of each page or feature this as your first page. You may even decide to have your bio/synopsis or pitch as your first page. You have control of the steering wheel.

Make sure your blog is easy to comment on—a warm inviting message.
- First impressions are lasting impressions.
- People need to trust you before you pitch your book. This is why I would recommend leaving your “advertising about your book” page out from your feature page.

  • Widgets on your side bar(s). Going from the top down:
    - A friendly and professional picture of you. Link the photo back to your bio page.
    - A badge your followers can click to subscribe. Easy to follow instructions: “Click here for your FREE bi-weekly subscription”.
    - Your book cover. Link this to another page where you can detail information –About/Price/etc. (*Note – Wordpress does not allow you to advertise so you may want to use Blogger as your platform if you are selling your book.)
    - A search space. I use google, plus my own search button for easier navigation.
    - List of Blog rolls
    - List of Groups you belong to
    - Categories. List 3-5 only
    - List of Recent Posts
    - List of Resources
    - List of Writers. Usually fellow writers you share links.
    - Archives
    - Recent Comments
    - Meta or Log In button
    - Subscribe RSS button. Very important so you can link your other blogs together.
    - Blog stats. (This is questionable)

    *Note - View the dynamics of your blog to make everything look user friendly and attractive. Do not clutter the page. More doesn’t necessarily mean better.
    - On white background, print in black. Keep it simple. No fancy flashing buttons, music or slow to download animations.
    - Remember, your audience is there to read your material and they don’t have a whole lot of time. Give the reader what they are looking for right away. The fewer times they have to click to find what they want, the greater the chances they will stick around.
    - Give cohesiveness to each page—same format and structure.
    - View other sites and ask yourself why you like or dislike their pages. Nothing wrong with borrowing ideas.

B.) Other Pages:

  • Bio Page:
    - The most viewed and commented page is my bio page. Sell yourself. Present an eagerness to talk about you and your work.
    - Write in third person.
    - List facts not wishes.
    - Cite relevant information.
    - Write tight. Limit to three to four sentences.
    - Add a hook.
    - The four questions your viewers want answered from your bio:
    1.) Who you are
    2.) What is your expertise;
    3.) How does your expertise address their problem or goal; and
    4.) How can they contact you
    - DO keep your professional bio as short as possible.
    - DO be selective; don't list your entire professional background.
    - DON’T be bland; let your personality show.
    - DON’T include information that isn’t relevant to your audience.
  • Contact Page:
  • Promotional Page:

4. How do I get people to find my blog?
People will discover your blog through:

  1. Search Engines – The key is to get your name listed at the top of these engines. You need a brand, keywords repeated often in your content, links, and tags.
  2. Marketing – Constantly post your “signature” everywhere: in forums, blog comments, and emails.
  3. Promoting - Promote your site – Advertise in MySpace, GoodReads, FaceBook, Ning, BookMarketing, MyLogBlog, Twitter. Promoting is time consuming and must be done constantly to be effective. If you are tight with deadlines or want to focus solely on your writing, you may want to consider paying someone to build your author platform and promote your book. I am the owner of a new company called Premium Promotional Services. My partner, Brian Knight, and I will take care of all your promotional needs.

What are the Top 5 pieces of advice for a successful blog?

  1. Be prepared to market and promote your blog.
  2. Present your blog in a professional and user-friendly manner. It must be attractive for the viewer.
  3. Target Your Audience – Submit relevant, factual, and interesting information where the reader can contribute.
  4. Discover the balance between selling and presenting. Feel comfortable expressing yourself. Have fun writing…this will show in your voice.
  5. Edit – Polish each post. Make sure you have included all widgets necessary for your viewer to navigate and gain the knowledge they seek.

Thank you Jo-Anne for taking the time to help other authors learn more about blogging.


Anonymous said...

Awesome post. Thanks for this. It was very helpful.

Have a great day.

Marilyn said...

I have to say that I have had multiple blogs...and I am an author...but I find that I want my blogs to be about something other than a book...

I read blogs to be entertained, informed, and to feel something about the writer...that makes me interested in them. Too many writers are peddling their wares like sidewalk salesmen...and I wind up totally avoiding writers blogs.

So I write about what I am doing in my life. Sales of books are secondary to me, because I my work is my art...

I will admit...a webpage is something I need to create...but I am wanting the right visual, platform and the like...not to mention a great host site...I do have a couple of links on pages like biblioscribe...

Even then...I resist posting the links because the most important thing to me is my writing...

Every book is a relationship with the reader...that is how I see it...for somewhere on a sleepless is my hope that the insomniacs of the world will turn a page instead of clicking their remote controls...

All the best and great posting.


Robin Sullivan said...

I agree about making your blogs entertaining - I think Michael's "author" blog is excellent as he discusses things about "writing in general - such as the difference between storytellers and authors and the genesis of writing etc. If you have not read it before checkout:

S. I. R. Pierre said...

I struggle with the same issues as Marilyn with maintaining an author blog... however... I've been using my blog as a "one stop shop" for all things me and book related...

Since I'm a new author... I'm releasing material from the book twice a week... and blogging on random topics when I see fit... (though, in truth... I haven't started the randomness yet)... I will likely write conversations with characters... inspiration pieces... or whatever other whacky things pop up...

That said... I think that people can tell the difference between a sidewalk peddler and an artist... I think passion is the important factor in this... since people can usually tell a passionate artist from a charlatan...

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Rita Webb said...

Thanks for this post. I am often looking for more information to improve my blog.

I try to focus on the needs of other writers, talking about writing and book marketing. I also have book reviews for fiction I enjoyed or helpful writing/marketing books. My purpose is to support and promote others.

Also on my blog, I have some information about myself, some short stories, and anecdotes about my life and family. I actually say very little about my books.

Lizbeth Grimm said...

Rita, do you find this helps you sell books? How does trying to promote material you think is good (yours) make you a "charlatan?" I've never seen this answered - what is the appropriate way for an author to promote their own material? I recently offered an after Christmas special and received no reponses whatever. And this was at Facebook, where people supposedly know me.

Marshall Davis said...

Thanks for this post. I have been blogging for a couple of months now, and I am finding that promoting the blog is the hardest part. The blog networks do not seem to be very effective, and I am not willing to pay to advertise. But still my readership is gradually increasing.

It is so much different than writing a book. Instant feedback in the form of comments. I love it!