Now I’m sure you’ve heard these words before, but having a Blog is arguably the most important aspect of your Author Platform. It allows you to go into as much or little depth as you like. It brings new people to YOU, allowing your author marketing activities to do what they do best. It also allows you to communicate with these new readers in a way Social Media generally cannot.
In the previous two posts (Author Marketing: 4 Steps to Create Great Blog Design – Part 1 & Part 2) I went through the design process of the Blog. Today however we look at the King, and no, I don’t mean Elvis, or even Mufasa. I of course mean Content! 2012’s very own buzzword and the term I hope will help take your Blog from just another website, to the website everyone wants to read.
Today’s entry of the How To Build An Author House Series – is about just that. I also have a special guest to discuss this topic in depth. Joanna Penn joins me today, an Author and Blogger who’s built a superb author platform over the last few years. She’s also is in the midst of a Book release with her new book, Prophecy, coming out last week, which in turn is on my Goodreads reading list.
I first came across Joanna early in my Blogging research and she’s been a great source of information ever since. I strongly suggest you follow her on Twitter and sign up to her mailing list. Due to huge demand she’s also begun some courses, so for those of you looking for a more personal tutorial I strongly suggest you check out her services.
Over to you Joanna…
Joanna Penn is the author of thriller novels Pentecost and Prophecy. Her site TheCreativePenn.com helps people write, publish and sell their books and was voted one of the Top 10 Blogs for Authors in 2011. Follow Joanna on Twitter @thecreativepenn
What can a Blog do to help an aspiring author?
I can personally say that Blogging changed my life! Here’s why I think it’s great for an aspiring author (if it’s done as a serious endeavor):
* You adopt the habit of writing regularly, succinctly and for an audience which impacts your confidence and translates into any other form of writing in terms of a practice
* You can attract a group of people who will be cheerleaders, supporters, commenter’s and perhaps ultimately readers.
* You can network with your peers who have Blogs and these relationships can turn into opportunities. I’ve had all my live speaking work through the Blog, and a lot of my marketing comes from Bloggers I have relationships with. I also now create products with people I’ve met Blogging.
Would you recommend focusing on a niche market or varying your content?
You need a niche of some kind as otherwise people won’t resonate with you and your message. You can still vary your content though. With an author Blog, you’ll be writing about aspects relating to your writing. So I have an author Blog JoannaPenn.com where I Blog about psychology, religion and my writing interests. The Creative Penn focuses on writing, publishing and book marketing but is less about my own books (although of course I leverage my platform!
This is often easier for non-fiction authors as they will usually write on topic, but for fiction, you could focus on your research interests, review other authors, talk about your writing process and writing life.
How long did it take before you began seeing improvements in your stats?
It was about 6 months before I noticed any real traffic or comments on my site. I started it in Dec 2008 and self-publishing wasn’t so trendy back then. I Blogged almost every day in that period but to be honest, it took me that long to ‘find my voice’ and my authenticity. Plus I got the site redesigned, learned about SEO and so all that helped. You don’t want to get traffic too soon either as you need time to grow into your Blog. I had 2 other Blogs before The Creative Penn which I dropped as they weren’t my passion. This is common!
What makes a great Blog Post?
You need a few things, and these are the issues I see most often with writer’s Blogs.
* Great headline or no one will read the post. My recommendation is for everyone to subscribe to Copyblogger and learn about copywriting and headlines
* Focus on what the reader will get out of it. You can use your own experience but it must serve the purpose of underlining something the reader will find useful.
* Be useful and not self-indulgent – most of the time anyway. There’s a time for self-promotion but it’s after you’ve built up a good audience and you have some goodwill built up from all the useful info you have provided.
* Include an image in the post and break it up with white space so it’s easier to read. Don’t have white text on a black background. Pay attention to how things look. This is even more important since Google’s Panda update which takes look & feel into consideration.
How often should you Blog?
That depends on your goals but the most important thing is to be consistent so people know what to expect. If you Blog every day for 6 months and then once a month, people will probably leave. If you write one long post, 2000 words say, per week, that’s fine.
I post every 2-3 days and do a podcast every 10 days. I have content backed up for months in advance as there’s so much to share!
Can your readers play a big part in your Blog?
Absolutely. You’re writing for them! So enable comments and have a conversation. Nowadays I find I get a lot of comments on Twitter or Facebook or Google+ as well as in the Blog itself. You can also do polls and answer Q&A. I get a lot of email and I try to answer all of that. Be yourself, be approachable, be useful. This is fun!
Your top 3 tips for an aspiring author starting a Blog:
* Decide on your goal for your writing and also for your brand. This will determine many things about how you design your site and what you focus on. So The Creative Penn was always about sharing my experiences with publishing for writers. But JoannaPenn.com is for sharing with my fiction readers, which is a different audience. The goals are different, the look and feel is different as well.
* Model some of the biggest Blogs. What do they do? Why are they effective? Can you make your Blog this effective? So I have always looked at Blogs like CopyBlogger and Chris Brogan in terms of how can I have the same effect.
* Keep going and enjoy the process. I started Blogging for marketing reasons, which is why most people start. But many people give up too soon. If you take it seriously and also enjoy it, the time doesn’t matter. You will find your tribe and you will get results you may never have imagined. I ended up speaking at a writer’s retreat in Bali because of my Blog. There are so many intangible rewards.
A massive thank you to Joanna for providing a great insight into Blogging and the Content to go with it. I read a comment the other day that stuck with me. It said, “If Content is King, then the Audience is the Queen.” Your content needs to be great, don’t get me wrong, but it needs to appeal to someone and you need to engage with them. If a great post is posted, but no one is around to read it…does it still exist?
As a member of the new Blogger Club, Joanna’s comments are very encouraging. The more I look into things the more I hear about an author platform taking six months to a year to attract anything more than a couple dozen visitors.
It’s easy to get disheartened, but the advice is to keep going and keep trying new things. If your content is good and author marketing consistent, then people will begin to follow. It certainly helps me when I consider people like Joanna were in my exact position once; a head full of ideas, but with so few people to listen.
Next time on the How To Build An Author House Series the subject of SEO will be discussed and how conquering the likes of Google is key to your author platform becoming a success. For those of you with questions however, please leave them below and I’m sure we can tempt Joanna into extending her stay.
The Creative Penn has been voted one of the Top 10 Blogs for Authors 2 years running. Joanna has a multi-media mini-course on How To Blog For Authors & Writers, available for US$39.99. Click here for more details.
Turndog Millionaire – @turndog_million