I keep getting one question over and over again from authors — “Should I blog?” Technorati tells us they are already following more than 20 million blogs, so it ought to be clear that adding one more generic blog to the world of cyberspace isn’t necessarily going to get you a lot of attention. If you decide to blog, it ought to be because you think you can create something different, that will speak to a need and gather readers. May I make some quick suggestions?
First, make it easy to read. Too many blogs are indecipherable. That means the font and the overall design of the page should be easy on the eyes. It also means the reader should see some text right away, not have to scroll down to find something valuable.
Second, have a theme. You may balk at this a bit, thinking that people are there getting to know YOU, and not focused on your topic. To a certain extent, that’s true. But just as your books help create a “brand” in the minds of consumers, so your blog helps solidify your brand with readers.
Third, have a bio handy. Remember that new readers will sometimes stumble upon your site, or they’ll read about it in one of your books. That means every day you could conceivably garner a new reader — and he or she wants to know who you are. So have a short bio at the ready, in a place that’s easy to spot on your blog.
Fourth, give stuff away. I mean it. Give away good content. Give away books. Give away prizes or goodies or all kinds of stuff. Offer help to people. Sure, the blog is aimed at helping you market yourself, but remember that none of us purposefully go view advertising online. If your blog seems like nothing but a commercial, people won’t want to visit. Make your blog focused on sharing important stuff that others can use.
Fifth, use social media. Get involved with Twitter and Facebook and the other places where people congregate. Remember, you’re not trying to sell a product, you’re trying to make friends. Once you make friends with people, they’re far more apt to buy your book.
Sixth, interact with people on the web. Don’t just blog and let your post sit there. If somebody comments, write back to them. Go visit their blog and comment on it. You’re being polite, but you’re also you’re developing relationships.
Seventh, create blogs that can quickly be scanned. This advice came to me from my webmaster, who helped me see that using bold and italic, as well as causing some words to stand out by themselves, would make my posts more appealing to people who do a quick overview before digging in to read every word.
Eighth, talk to your web master about RSS feeds and search engines. An RSS feed will make sure readers receive all your blog posts, and by using key words and imbedded lengths, your blog will be easier to search and will show up more frequently when people are looking for something interesting on a topic. (Here’s an example: A few months ago I did a post entitled “The Basic, Basic Questions of Publishing.” That phrase was picked up by search engines, and it turned into hundreds of new readers.)
There’s a lot more to say on this, of course. Some writers really enjoy being part of blog groups, and there’s a big debate going on right now about the benefit of posting a chapter from your book on your blog. But this should help you think through the work involved with getting a blog going. (And believe me, it’s a lot of work. I regularly question if I need to keep my blog going.) Feel free to talk with me about my own experience with a blog — I’ve learned a lot. Or talk with Amanda, who I find does an amazing job with her Thursday posts.
Hope this gets you started thinking about it…