We're pleased to welcome BW member, Anne R. Allen, for a special guest appearance to talk about the advantages of an author blog. We frequently share content from Anne's popular blog (which she writes with Ruth Harris), so she knows a thing or two about how to make blogging work. If you're a new author or have been on the fence about starting your own blog, pull up a chair...
If you tell your non-writing friends you’re thinking of starting a blog, somebody is sure to tell you that blogging is "totally over."
Just give them an indulgent smile.
People have been declaring blogging dead pretty much since it started. Google "blogging is dead" and you'll see thousands of entries.
But it turns out the blog is a pretty resilient medium.
Your friends are right in one sense: the "make a zillion dollars with a blogging-about-blogging" blog has passed its sell-by date. You can only teach a finite number of people how to make money teaching blogging until the market gets saturated and everybody goes back to selling Amway.
But that stuff has nothing to do with author blogs. As an author, you're blogging to get name recognition and publicity for your books, not to sell advertising. That means most of the rules of business blogging don't apply to you. The money comes when you sell your books.
Take the Pressure Off
Author blogs are easy, fun, and only need to appeal to your target book readership, not vast hordes of consumers. An author blog is a venue for entertainment and information, not a hard-sell advertising machine. And they don't have to take much time. Posting once a week or less is fine for an author blog.
Even beginning authors can benefit from blogging, and your blog will pave the way for your future career.
For one thing, it can save you a lot of time and marketing money. Plus it's the easiest way to establish your author brand.
We have to be on social media these days—and a blog is the only social medium where you're in control. Your Facebook page's reach gets more restricted all the time, and Pinterest and Instagram are all about images.
But you're a writer. Blogging is writing.
Blogging Isn’t for Direct Sales
People will say, “Blogs don’t sell books.” And that’s true. They don’t sell directly. But no social media marketing is about hard sales. It's about making friends, networking and letting people know who you are (also known as "building your brand".) Once people know you, they'll be more likely to pay attention to your book than a title from a random stranger.
I'm amazed at how many new writers still think a book launch involves an expensive party at a local bookstore, a big splash at a nearby book fair, press releases, and interviews with hometown newspapers and radio stations. All of those are fun but there’s little ROI. (Well some aren’t fun. I only sold two books at my first book signing.)
Here’s the thing: today’s book market is global. And blogging is the best way to reach the most number of readers all over the planet. You can reach more readers with one blogpost than with months of those painfully ill-attended signings or those $1000-a-pop book fair booths.
In-Person Sales vs. Online Sales
A few years ago an author friend hosted a big launch party in an elegant local venue with great refreshments, a band, and lots of publicity. On the same day, I ran a sale of one of my old titles on my blog.
My friend felt her launch was a big success. She sold 20 books! But her cost was many hundreds of dollars.
I sold the same number of books during that 2-hour period. My cost: zero dollars.
You don’t have to go on an expensive blog tour, either. An informal series of guest posts and interviews with other writer-bloggers in your genre can get your book in front of just as many potential readers.
In fact, blogging can be absolutely free. A blog at WordPress.com, Weebly, Blogspot.com, or Wix costs nothing.
Here’s What Blogging Can Do
A blog can do the following:
- Makes you visible and gets you into search engines.
- Allows you to relate one-on-one with potential readers.
- Connects you with other authors and publishing professionals.
- Puts YOU in the driver's seat.
- Lets you show off your writing chops.
- Gives you a regular writing venue.
My blog sure has made all the difference in my own career.
Ten years ago my career was over. My publisher had gone under. My fourth agent had dropped me. Freelancing jobs had dried up.
I was bloodying my knuckles on the doors of agents and publishers, invisible to Google.
So I started a blog. At first, nobody read it. But traffic picked up after I learned to network with other publishing professionals.
Blogging Provides Results
Fast forward a few years and miracles had happened.
- Publishers came to me—I didn't have to query.
- Ruth Harris, the NYT million-selling author joined the blog as a permanent guest.
- I was invited to write a book with another NYT bestseller, Catherine Ryan Hyde.
- I was asked to speak at writers' conferences.
- Magazines and anthologies solicited my work.
- High-circulation publications from slick fashion magazines to prestigious journals contacted me when they wanted an interview, because the first thing that came up in a Google search on various subjects was posts from my blog.
- I was invited to contribute to the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market
- I had 13 books in print and two were on the Amazon humor bestseller list for over a year. Another was an Amazon #1 bestseller.
And I'm not the only author who's found blogging the key to career success. Listen to what Nat Russo said after an expensive launch that failed to make any book sales.
"I slashed the number of book ads…and went back to blogging…sales rocketed…they leaped from 3/day to over 70/day, where they’ve remained ever since."
Got that? He stopped buying advertising and went back to blogging. That took him from a negative bottom line to making a nice living from his books.
Free and Fun
And not only is a blog free, it doesn't have to take much time. I've never blogged more than once a week.
A working fiction writer doesn't need to post as often as the "monetized" business blogger. Business blogging has a stringent set of rules. But authors can ignore most of them, and just have fun!
How about you? Do you blog? How has it helped your career?
Anne R. Allen is an award-winning blogger and the author of the bestselling Camilla Randall Mysteries. She's the co-author, with Catherine Ryan Hyde of How to be a Writer in the E-Age: A Self-Help Guide. She blogs, with NYT million-copy seller Ruth Harris at Anne R. Allen's Blog…with Ruth Harris. Their blog has been named one of the top 101 Websites for Authors by Writer’s Digest. Her latest book is The Author Blog: Easy Blogging for Busy Authors, an easy-does-it guide to simple, low-tech blogging for authors who want to build a platform, but not let it take over their lives.
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