Building a Blog

Eternity Symbiote
On sale for only 2.99 in the month of June.

In the last 48 hours I have written about 15K words of fiction, which is a lot, for me. I have about 20% of the projected length of the novel remaining, and I want to finish it as soon as possible so I can get on to other projects, this summer being very very busy. I’m having fun with the writing, the other things are both more and less fun. LibertyCon at the end of this month, an accuracy-checking gig for a professor who is writing a textbooks, the second half of my General Chemistry, and a week camping out with my kids.

So what does all this have to do with blogging? Well, about a year and change ago, I commited to a daily blog. I’d been trying to blog regularly, and for some reason I lost my mind and decided daily was a terrific idea. Right now I’m looking back at past me and wondering if she was a little soft in the head. I think she didn’t have enough to do, poor thing…

But why? Well, blogging is one way to do what is sometimes called content marketing. In other words, people come to you not to see ‘buy my book!’ but information that interests them, and keeps them coming back, while you subliminally have messages about your books for sale, just not (usually) hitting them over the head with it. Dorothy Grant addressed this nicely in yesterday’s post, how repeating it a few times when you launch is good, but not too often.

Which, since I only launch something every 2-3 months, leaves me with a lot of space to fill up. I decided right away I would make one day a week a book review day. This not only gave me an excuse to read (I was never catholic, but boy, do I get the guilt thing) so I wouldn’t feel guilty about taking time to read when there was work to be done. I wanted to do at least one day a week to writing tips, techniques, and the industry, but I didn’t want the whole blog to be that.

So many blogs from writers are targeted to writers. Think about that… talk about niche marketing. Just how many of your fellow writers are going to buy your books? Now, yes, helping newbies learn is a worthy cause, and it’s part of the reason I do write about writing, or more often, publishing. On the other hand, I wanted posts and articles that would be of interest to the general public.

Take for instance Peter Grant, whose blog Bayou Renaissance Man is very simple in design and layout, but with sheer prolific output and an audience which was interested in the articles he writes on history, guns, and much more, he had a great platform for the launch of his first book. I had a good chat with him on our first meeting about his blog, and it was part of what inspired me to build mine.

Our own Sarah Hoyt is a blogging machine, even though she has been trying to cut back recently. And According to Hoyt is rarely about writing, and only occasionally about publishing. Yet she has a wonderful platform full of fans who refer to themselves as Hoyt’s Huns. This is a power tool in her toolbox of things to help her succeed as a writer, and seller of books.

So here’s the thing, being regular is almost more important than content, but if you don’t have interesting content they won’t come back. I write on food, art, writing, snippets of my work (and rarely, whole stories), social issues, and whatever catches my fancy. I’m not sure, never having compared numbers, how my blog is doing relative to other blogs. However, in the past few weeks, I have seen fans who tracked me down and left me comments praising my work. I have seen, in this year, my ‘followers’ grow, and the daily read-count according to wordpress (I will tell you I know this is highly inaccurate, but I haven’t been able to figure out how to get analytics to work with this blog) slowly get higher. And there have been a few days where the hitcount was astronomical, when I hit a nerve with an article.

Is it worth it? Well, there are always days when I can’t come up with a flippin’ thing to write about. I may, in time and given undue pressure by outside commitments, drop back to 3 days a week. It’s a whole lot of work, it is. I may take the art day off completely, as I watch my hits drop like a rock when I do them. However, the art is something I do for me, so maybe I won’t, either.

I do think that it is helping my sales. My books are hanging in there, and I have fans contacting me to tell me they found my book through my blog. I have people telling me how they appreciate my book reviews and it helps them find other authors (doesn’t help me monetarily, but it gives me a kick). It’s satisfying to do, for now. I do think that a network, like we have been building with Mad Genius club and the people who write for it, is a great way to cross-promote books to fans who might not have heard about them. I’m equally uncertain that ‘blog tours’ do anything at all, having participated in one or two and seen no blip in my sales.

Keep content marketing in mind. Social media blasts to announce a book are all well and good, but if you don’t already have a platform of people waiting to hear you speak, who will hear that blast? Besides, this internet thing is the perfect way for an introverted performer to thrive. I love the conversations a blog post can spark, and how they get me thinking, in return.

Don’t feel like you can manage a blog on your own? Try getting together with a couple other friends, setting an iron-clad schedule, and doing a combined blog. If you can stick to it, that would be a great way to keep regular content, and pool a fan base. Like this blog…

42 thoughts on “Building a Blog

  1. And if you, would-be blogger, feel time-crunched for writing blog posts, don’t forget that many blog software packages or blog services allow you to pre-load posts, so you can write a batch, set the timer, and get immersed in the real world again, instead of staring at the screen at nine PM thinking “arrrgh I have not posted in three days and my brain is empty and I have so much to do and why is the dryer making that horrible noise.” Not that that ever happens to me, mind.

    1. I do that, especially as I have loosely designated days for topics: Tuesday is Art, Monday writing, Friday is reveiw day. So when I come up with a post, I go ahead and schedule it. But still, I wind up with mornings where I’m staring at the blinking cursor.

      1. That’s a pretty good idea… and I can relate. Some days I wake up feeling charged up and wanting to write / draw… but when I sit down I find myself staring at the screen, wondering where all those wonderful ideas skittered off to.

        1. I will jot notes to myself when I’m not at the computer, for blog and/or art. For art joggles, I’ll browse DeviantArt for ideas I’d like to try or elements that catch my eye and inspire me.

          1. 😀 Deviantart and Danbooru’s ‘grand scale’ ‘landscapes’ and similar collections tend to have me go “ooh, shiny” and when I look up again, six hours have passed, and it only feels like half an hour…

            Sometimes, it happens too, when I write or draw. “Where’d time go? I just started!” Time, flying and fun… Ahhhhh.

      1. I do actually have a blog. It was started to give a place for updates on a long trip. Now I’m not on a trip, I don’t talk about The Job That Eats My Brain (but pays well), and I’ve very boringly settled. So I only post on alternate months. Maybe.

        When people ask, I generally don’t claim a blog. Except around gunbloggers, because they check my blog. Why sporadic posts on flying, shooting, and loving a combat vet would interest them enough to check… *shrugs*

        I leave the social media burden to Calmer Half.

  2. I think about this, but know I wouldn’t be able to carry it on a daily basis. For each such decision, I try to apply Rusch’s WIBBOW test (would I be better off writing). For me, with only two books out, I need to focus on the fiction.

    My second book had great sales last month, but has now slid down the pages where it got a mention and this month has seen very little in the way of sales. So, I’ve been thinking about a blog, but just don’t know. What do you see as the qualitative differences between a blog and a more static web page?

    1. A blog gives a reason for readers to return, so they don’t miss the irregular updates of when a book is out. And as Jonathan says below, it doesn’t have to be anything big or earth-shattering. many times I will grab an article of interest, quote from it, and make a few comments. In order to find those, I look at my FB feed, the blogs I read daily, or google a specific seach string to find information I can use. I harvest ideas from friends, school, and work.

  3. Pam, as someone who has committed to blogging daily this year (and possibly going forward), the one thing I can say is you have to learn to change your definition of “interesting stuff.”

    If you write once a week, or once a month, you are always thinking something perfect, or special, with real punch or impact. But if you write every day, you start to think about writing about more everyday sort of stuff.

    Think about the poor people working in a newspaper newsroom. That page always has to have something on it each morning, whether there is a “breaking story” or not. Now the weekly or monthly magazine is looking for something a little more catching — but usually also has a narrower, target audience.

    I wouldn’t compare myself to Sarah or Cedar in blogging skill or following — I have 67 followers, of which I think almost half are people trying to advertise themselves to get me to follow them — but I have a core that likes or comments in various places.

    Having been a small-town community beat reporter 20 years ago, one of my favorite blog topics is covering “events” that my family participates in — with a few pictures they make easy blogs for me to write. Since a lot of them feature my church, I have a core group of people there that follow, and the church’s media representative often links and reblogs it on the church Facebook, etc.– one time it even got picked up by the state denominational magazine.

    So my advice is to think small — about what interests you — and write with all that interest. People will read a lot about things that don’t interest them directly, if it comes from someone they find interesting, and find interest in things they never expected to.

    Which bring me back to today. Still haven’t filled my blog. What can I write about today?

    1. Which brings me to another idea. For a long time I was involved with a group called Indie Ink, which had a round-robin writing challenge, where you submitted a challenge, and then were assigned randomly a challenge from someone else in the group. It was a terrific way to polish the writing skills, both for fiction and non-fiction. So maybe having people you can ask for ideas or challenges is a good idea to cultivate. Jonathan, why not write on the cultivation of ideas, sort of like gardening? If you don’t plant them, they won’t grow. 😉

      1. Beware metaphors. I’m looking at my unplanted garden beds outside this morning (bad year this — odd weather and no time left over for work to do anything) and there is plenty growing — all weeds. Something always grows unless you are counting on it.

        1. See? Metaphors are great ideas! And I had lovely plans of a micro-garden (all I have room for) and then killed half my plants when I ran out of time to actually, you know, *plant* them.

          1. *mournfully* I bought bulbs, the ‘buy this several hundred mix pack for thirty dollars’ sale ones. Our house being a rental, I had dreams of planting flowering bulbs in pots and arranging them. And I’d have a lovely sitting area, where I would be with my netbook, enjoying a cuppa, the birdsong carried on the breeze, while I wrote…

            By the time I got around to planting them most of the bulbs had died. The few that hadn’t are sprouted and have grown rather long leaves… Maybe I’ll write about that someday.

  4. I’m going to use the same model I did when I was opinioning for cash in college – see something on TV or in the news or FB or where ever and opine about it. Only difference will be that I’m not getting paid for it right now.

    I guess my title will now be “Opinions for hope of future Cash”

  5. My goal is to write an article someday entitled, “How I sold a 1000 books a day without ever blogging.”

    Which means, using highly scientific guesswork about sales, I’ll have to get 100 books up–at my current rate of 1 every 18 months, I have a reason to live a long, long time 😉

    I could probably manage one article a week, but why bother when it won’t build an audience? Not doing it at all is better than fretting over hits, and content, and blank brains.

    btw, I like the layout of your blog.

    1. My wordpress blog allows me to automatically tweet, link to google plus, LinkedIn, and possibly more, but those I use. I also had API keys set to post my blog to Goodreads and my Amazon author page. I will on occasion pin an art blog to Pinterest or link it to Stumbleupon, those are the only two things I do manually. It’s pretty nifty what you can do without ever having to lift a finger again!

      As for your blog, I reshare it in Facebook, and I do that for a handful of people, or when the blogs are particularly good, one of the benefits of networks, here, to increase eyes-on.

    2. Those of us who don’t do social media just smile and nod. (I don’t want to set up accounts for my nom de plume, and I won’t have an account for “real” me because of stalker problems.)

      1. The thing about social media is it’s free, and can be less time-intensive than other things. But there are options for those who don’t want in, even under a pseudonym. I haven’t done much with paid advertising, although I plan to with the release of the next book. I’ve already started experiments in that direction, and will blog when I know more, but it will likely be August before I have enough data.

        1. True. If cost, both in dollars and in hours, is a concern, social media is a real boon. I’ve not tried paid advertising yet, in part because I’ve been plowing what I can back into the books (and now into dealing with the flooding in my office. *shrug* We need the rain so I’m not going to grumble. Much.)

            1. My office is now down to bare cement on the floor. The floor can’t be replaced until the leak outside is fixed, which entails a fair bit of work. It’s been a week and a half since the first semi-inundation. Just about the time things started to get dry outside, we started the latest batch of rain (4″ since Thursday, as of early this AM.) It’s . . . annoying.

  6. I don’t blog regularly, but I comment a lot….

    I actually have several blogs, a LiveJournal I’ve had for over a decade. Alas, I had enough personal stuff on it that an incident with a stalker caused me to friends-lock most of the entries. (Nothing more pathetic than a Furry Fanboy stalker who can’t let go of something you said fifteen years ago when you quit the fandom), and I don’t think my employer would appreciate me posting publicly about my grief at work. I have an Anime blog, but I post to that maybe once a week, if that, depending on my schedule. I have a DeviantArt page where I post a lot of fiction, although since I’m working on things like the Baen contest right now, there’s little to post, but I do have fans there. And of course, I post a lot of comments.

    Probably too many. Although I try to keep them relevant, which is why on some MGC and ATH posts I don’t have anything to say. (And annoyingly, my schedule is such that many of them are the last comment on a thread.)

    1. Once a week is probably plenty if you always schedule on the same day. I know I have blogs I hit once a week, because I don’t expect to see an update more often.

      You know, I hadn’t thought about DeviantArt for my writing, how well does that work?

      1. It’s an art site, so writing doesn’t get quite the attention that it should, but the userbase is tremendous, and the “Favorites” system and “Watch” system are fantastic word of mouth.

        I’ve even had fan-art made for some of it.

        On the other hand, the works that seem to get the most attention are the fetish/erotic ones. The most popular of these has been viewed by 5900 people (I’m pretty sure they don’t count repeat viewings), marked as a favorite 89 times, and has 59 comments.

        Now some of my colorations of other artist’s works get much higher numbers.

        But a really popular artist will have numbers several orders of magnitude above that.

        I’ve been posting chapters of the Dr. Mauser novel as I finish them, although they’ll all have to go away once it’s done and ready for Amazon. this may take a while.

        The feedback isn’t great, they’re not Beta readers, and they generally won’t give you corrections, but some of the comments are pure egoboo.

          1. I considered at one point starting separate DAs for some of my stuff, but I decided instead that I’m not ashamed of anything I put up there, so there are incredible landscape panoramas, and some pretty kinky stuff too. Dunno if I’d send some people there looking though.

            On the other hand, the Stash function is really nice for pre-vetting stuff, people can only look at things if you give them the direct link to it.

    2. Heh, my LJ was originally my public site but I finally locked it a few years ago after some serious incidents with The Very Persistent Stalker, who still stalks it and my DeviantArt. I was also a very frequent blogger. I still blog about my politics there, but it’s friends only now and I have no interest in exposing myself or my readers to be attacked by the stalker, who you all know as Chlamydia. He’s banned on my devart and LJ.

      I have a sort of blog on our website, here. I used to post things like recipes and such, and occasionally will post there. We have a forums for discussions, but the convenience of blogs… well.

      1. My politics and found video posts on LJ are public, since they’re not personal information, as well as most of the recipes. And of course the “Whiteboard” posts, although I haven’t made one in quite a while. Those are a GREAT source for funny one-liners that I have open sourced to anyone.

        1. Yeah, well, in this case Chlamydia uses my friends list of actives and stalks the females. He did the same with all the female-named user handles on our gaming clan forum too. And a few other places. It doesn’t end well (for him) when most of them work in IT but not all the folks are like that.

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