Using a blog to connect with an audience
Blogging for self-publishers has much in common with independent book publishing. The reality is that anyone can publish a blog, but relatively few find the success they’re looking for. But as with book publishing, this success is about more than luck—it’s about carefully planning your approach and investing time and effort, rather than simply creating a blog and hoping for the best.
With the right efforts, blogging can be one of the best (and most accessible) ways to promote your writing, establish a platform for yourself as an author, and connect with an audience. This series will explore blogging for self-publishers, first explaining why it’s worth it to dedicate time to a blog, some guidelines on choosing content and approach, and then specific advice for choosing a platform and optimizing your blog.
Why blogging for self-publishers?
One of the best promotional tools for any self-publishing author is a preexisting platform that offers access to an audience. Perhaps you own a business, teach classes, or work as a consultant for businesses. These platforms give the public a reason to listen to you, and will ensure there’s already an audience waiting when you publish a book. Even if this is a relatively small group, it can offer a jumping-off-point for getting online reviews and spreading word-of-mouth recommendations. It’s one of the best ways to stand out in a saturated book market, and really one of the key elements of book marketing.
If you already have an established platform like this, then you’re in a great position to start a blog. You know your audience, and regular blogging will keep them engaged with what you’re up to. When you’re ready to publish your book, you can use the blog to drum up excitement and ensure they know when and where to look for it. It’s a great way to get a base of reviews on sites like Amazon that will inspire other readers to take a chance on your work.
So what if you don’t have an established platform? Some people spend their whole lives and careers establishing this audience. In this case, if you put in the time and effort, and do things the right way, blogging for self-publishers is one of the best (and only) shortcuts to connecting directly with an audience before you publish your book.
The best time to start blogging is well in advance of publishing a book. But even already published authors can benefit. Later, it can even provide a sales and distribution outlet for your book.
The right approach
As Jane Friedman points out, most authors don’t wind up benefiting much from blogging. But she still recommends it as a marketing and promotion method, because most of those authors are not taking an effective approach to their blog writing and publishing. Those that do often find that it’s one of the most useful tools at their disposal. Above all else, success is about taking the time to understand what makes for good blog writing, and putting in the effort to produce quality content on your blog. Even though blogging can seem less formal, if you don’t put in the same level of care as you would with other writing, you won’t win over readers.
So what kind of blog content should you be posting? For non-fiction writers it may be self-evident. The goal is to get people interested in your topic and attract readers that are already interested, by presenting useful, interesting facts or analysis, or better yet, by answering the questions most frequently asked on a given topic. If you already interact with your audience in teaching, consulting, or other scenarios, you probably already have a good idea what they want to know.
Answer those questions and present those ideas while sparking curiosity for the in-depth examination you’ll offer in your book.
For aspiring fiction authors, you might need to be a little bit more creative for blog content. Your best bet is to target a niche audience surrounding your specific themes and subgenre. Many subgenres, like sci-fi and fantasy, have robust online communities you could plug into.
Writing Cooperative offers a helpful and extensive list of suggestions for fiction writers creating blog content.
Their suggestions include behind-the-scenes coverage of the writing and research process, which could interest readers by offering an insider perspective on the process, especially for books in their favorite subgenre. Some may even be aspiring authors themselves. Excerpts from your work can get people interested in your story and give them a sense of your style. You can even post whole short-stories. Profiling characters from your book is another way to get readers engaged with your book ahead of time.
You can even review other books or content relating to your subgenre or themes, to attract your target audience to your blog. Once on your site, your other posts will get them interested in your book. From there, you can make sure they know where and when to buy and review it once published.
There’s more than one viable approach to blogging for self-publishers, but they all involve taking the time and effort to produce high-quality content. The payoff, however, is an audience already waiting to read and recommend your book by the time it is published.