10 Things I’ve Learned After 7 Years of Blogging

Today, according to WordPress, is my 7th anniversary of blog writing (nearly 6 with this blog).  I started this blog because I got my first story sale with my short story Death Watch, which was published by the good folks over at Liquid Imagination.  Originally my blog was my website, and though I have since separated the two, a lot of people still find me through this blog.

When I started out, I really didn’t know what to expect.  And seven years later, I still really don’t know what could happen.  But here are at a few things I have learned since starting out.

1 – Getting traffic to your blog is hard.

It took me a long time, a really long time, to gather up any type of blog traffic.  I tried funny posts, writing posts, life posts, and mixtures of all three.  What I learned is the topics don’t really matter, it just takes time to start showing up in search results and for people to come to your blog looking for certain content.  Which leads to number two.

2 – Pick a topic for your blog

Pick a topic for your blog and stick to it.  Does that mean I don’t blog about life? No.  It just means that the general topic of this blog is books and writing.  I love the movies, video games, and hockey.  Sure I mention those in my blog, but I don’t think I’ve written blog posts on those things.  This doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to write on other topics, but you’ll get a better following if your blog has a theme.

There are exceptions to every rule.  My post, Eight Things I’ve Learned Since Moving to Washington is not writing related at all, but it is the only post that gets a hit at least once per day.

3 – If getting traffic is hard, getting a following seems impossible.

For the longest time, my family were my only followers.  It look a long time to work up to a decent following and to keep them following.  There are a lot of ways to get the regular following and keep them, and many of those are involved in these things I’ve learned.  The truth is, no advertising ever worked.  The only followers I ever got were from reading a post of mine and liking it enough to follow the blog.

4 – Losing followers is very easy.

People stop following a blog for many reasons.  The most common, you offended them.  Society has placed a lot of weight on being offended, as if it really means anything.  I’ve lost followers when they found out I’ve got LGBT characters in my novels. I’ve lost followers because I’ve mentioned I own guns.  I’ve lost followers because I made a Trump joke.  You will also lose followers if you don’t blog in a while.  I lost most of mine during my two year hiatus.

5 – You can’t please everyone.

So you may be thinking that you should sterilize your blog from any possibility of offence.  I tried that in the beginning of my blogging days.  Hell, I used to try that in the start of my writing days.  Well, fuck ’em. People will get offended by what you say.  If they don’t, does your writing carry any real passion anyway?  As I said above, people think being offended means something.  It doesn’t.  What I have learned is that more people appreciate the honest writer connecting with his audience than they do a sterilized blog.  You can’t please everyone, so don’t try.

6 – Listen to your audience.

Many of my blog post ideas come from blog comments or my social media.  I’m not saying you need to ask them what to blog about next, though you can a time or two.  But pay attention to what they are saying about your blog.  As a self published author, I noticed many of my readers were talking and interested in that aspect.  As a result, I wrote Self Publishing, a post in which I explored what Self Publishing was all about.  It took more work than most of my posts do, but it was also the most successful post.

7 – Read and connect with other bloggers

You really need to read and connect with other bloggers.  For one, you will see what is trending and discover what other bloggers like you are doing.  This will let you know if the topic you want to blog on is over-saturated or that it is of no interest to anyone.  But also you can work with others to do guest posts and other connections to attract their followers to you and your followers to them.

8 – Guest posts are great.

Guest posts are a great way to drive followers of others to your blog.  For a long period of time I was doing an author focus blog series that allowed guest posts from other authors.  It drove new eyes to my blog that may have otherwise not visited.  Don’t expect a ton of new followers from it, but you just might get someone poking around your blog for other stories.

9 – Don’t expect your blog to be a revenue stream.

I’m not sure I have made any book sales from people who came to read my blog.  In most cases it is the other way around.  People have come here after reading my work.  Some to complain, but most because they liked what they read and wanted to see more.  Also, ad riddled blogs suck to read (of course we have no control over the WordPress ads).  One ad maybe, or sponsored content is okay.  But some blogs read so heavily of sales pitches that they become no fun to read.

Also, don’t overly self publicize on you blog. It isn’t wrong, but it is a fine line between content and advertising.  The point of a blog is to connect with your audience, not sell them shit.

10 – It is okay to blog for yourself.

It is absolutely okay to write a blog for yourself with no aim to gain followers.  You might accidentally acquire a few anyway.  But not every blog has to be for fan connection or to gain more readers.  Some can be for the hell of it.  You can have as many blogs as you like too.  The choice is yours.

BONUS: We’re all full of shit.

Here is a bonus thing I’ve learned, everything on the internet about how to write a great blog is full of shit.  This one included.  What worked for me may not work for you.  Lord knows I read a lot of crap, that when I tried it, did’t work for shit.  More to the point, articles with things I’ve learned titles are there to help you see what was learned.  You can use it, or you can toss it.  The choice is yours really.

It is your blog, write what you want, but I’ve shared what I’ve learned.  Your results may vary.

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Marketing for Writers 101

A Brief Self Help Guide for Writers

One of the things that I failed to understand when I started out as a writer, was that writing is a business.  And if you want any business to succeed, you need to market it.  I don’t think many people understand the importance of writers to market themselves.  It is one of the only ways you will gather readers, reach out to your readers, and let them know when new works are coming out.

You may be thinking that you won’t need to market because you plan to publish in a traditional fashion.  You may assume the publisher will handle all the marketing.  Or you may simply think your works will sell themselves.

Well, I believe you are wrong and you can do so much to promote yourself for little or no money.

Social Media

Social media offers the best way to connect with your readers and fans.  If you are not much for technology it is relatively easy and helps.

You really need a presence on the three major Social Media outlets: Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.  They all have their advantages and disadvantages so all three is almost a must.  Also, you need to use them.  I try to post something each day.  I certainly check them every day.

Facebook:

With Facebook, you really need an Author’s Page.  Pages are separate from your Facebook Profile.  Creating one is easy, relatively fast, and pretty effective.  You can visit my Page to see what they look like.  You may even want to create a separate page for a book you may be working on, or recently published.  Robert S. Wilson has one for his book that you can look at as an example.

Why use an Author’s Page instead of your regular Facebook Profile.  Well for one, you may not want to share personal matters, photos, and friends with your fans.  Second, it is far easier for your fans to click “like” then it is for them to send a friend request and wait for your response.   Third, Facebook offers a TON of tools for pages that help with promotion.  Tools you simply don’t get with a standard page.

You can create a page by visiting any page.  In the top right corner there is a link that say “Create a Page”.  Once you have a page post links to your other accounts on social media.  Also, post information about upcoming releases and the like.

Twitter:

I never found much interest in Twitter.  But at the advice of other writers I made a Twitter Account for myself.  I have found it far more fun then I thought it would be.  I have more followers on Twitter then I do on my Facebook Author Page.  I think Twitter gets its appeal because anyone can follow anyone.

Setting up and account is easy.

Use Twitter to share all sorts of things.  RT (Re-Tweet) posts that you like.  Reply to Tweets you like.  Here is a little help with Twitter from one novice to another:

“#” is a hash tag.  It is used to make searching for posts on a particular topic easy.  People add it to the tweet to help with searching.  Keep the terms together versus spacing out words.  Example “#amwriting” would be used; not “#am writing”.

RT is Re-Tweet.  This usually is used if someone replies to a tweet and wants to put it to context.

Example: “I wish I had ur motivation. Can a walk to the fridge count as cardio? RT @megselizabeth86: Cardio and legs. Yay. Gonna be sore as hell tmrw.”

And last, as you see in the example above is the @sign.  It represents the profile mentioned.  @Richard_Flores4 is mine.  When people mention you, this allow their followers a quick click to see your profile.  It results in great exposure.

Some will tell you to do your best to get a Re-tweet or a reply for major celebrity/business page just to get the exposure to a lot of potential fans.  I don’t go that far.  But I do reply to celebrity posts as appropriate.  I mention profiles when it is appropriate to.  And I always try to give a shout out to fellow authors.

Google+

I think this will be the most difficult for the social media novice.  I consider it the love child of Twitter and Facebook.  It does have a lot of the best of both worlds.  You can post things to the public or just to certain circles.  My fellow writers are in one circle, family in another, friends in another, and those I am just following in a fourth.  Once you understand it, and Google has good videos on it, you can start sharing certain posts with certain circles.  Or you can share with all your circle, or the general public.

Google+ is probably the one I use the least.  Mostly because I don’t have many people on there.  But, that is changing over time.  The one major disadvantage to Google+ is that they are taking down profiles that are not “real”.  While I support removing fake profiles, this may pose a problem for those authors that use Pseudonyms.  I don’t use one, so I don’t know how hard they are being on it.

Website

You need a website.  I have one right here.  I choose to combine my Blog and my Website.  Its free to use WordPress, Blogspot, and most other blog sites.  It gives you a free web presence and combines a blog.

Eventually, I will have my own .com, but for now this works.  And all of the social media sites let you place a link to your website on them.  So there is some good cross promotion of your sites.  Here are some things your site should have:

Blog:

You should have  a blog too, even if you have your own .com.  Your blog can be hosted on your own site or separate from it.  Just make sure the two are linked together.  Blogging can be fun, it gets you writing for one.  It also inspires discussion and hopefully inspire new authors.  There are whole articles on blogging and what you need to do with your blog.  Here are some ideas:

  1. Pick a schedule and make sure to post something on it.  For me it is once a week.  For some it is once a month.  It just gives people a chance to know when to look for new posts.
  2. Announce new posts on your social media sites.  This will bring readers.
  3. Allow comments.  Allow commenting to encourage discussion.
  4. Have a Follow tab.  This allows people to set up email alerts when you post something.
  5. Establish some blog rules.  Having some rules will ensure there is less backlash should you have to remove a comment.
  6. Use HTML tags so people can click the word, and see what you are talking about.
  7. Respond to the comments you get.

About Me:

You need an about section on your website.  Tell a little bit about yourself.  This allows readers to know if they found the real you (Imagine how many Richard Flores there are in the world).  It also establishes some of your qualifications to blog on the topics you choose to blog about.

Bibliography:

Put a Bibliography down if you have works published (or have publishing dates for them).  Put links to purchase them and/or read them if you can.  Think of it like your resume.

Contact:

Put a way to be contacted.  Most blogs have a contact us form you can use so you don’t have to share your email if you don’t want.  Also you can link your social media there.  Facebook and Twitter have profile badges you can add to your site homepage.  WordPress even has widgets to use for that too.

Pictures:

In the world of websites, people like to see pictures.  So I urge you to add visual elements to your site.  Its something I still work with all the time.  I also think you need your picture up on the home page.  People like to see who they are talking to.  But that is more of an opinion of mine.

Store:

Put a store up on your site of some kind.  Even if it is just links to Amazon.com’s listing of your book.  I don’t have any books out yet, but when I do, you can rest assured there will be a store up.

Links:

Put up links to other bloggers you enjoy, sites you use regularly, and to other writers you enjoy.

Examples:

You have see my blog as one example of a Wordpess site.  Here are some others:

Robert S. Wilson’s Blog on Blogspot.

Michael R McDuffee and Karen T. Smith uses a blog format on a .com

Orson Scott Card and Jeffrey A. Carver have more elaborate web sites.

Now What?

You have the web presence now in Social Media and with a Website.  Best yet, it can all be done for free.  Now how do you draw attention to yourself.  Well, that requires the real work.

Cross Promote:

Get together with your fellow writers and share their sites.  Share them in blog posts when you can (as I have done here), link them in your social media site, announce when they have books coming out, share their sites in your LINKS page, and promote them as much as you can.  You will be surprised how many will do the same for you.

Comment on other posts:

Comment on blog posts, twitter, Facebook, and Google+.  Use your pages to make these comments and drive readership to you.  Reply to all the comments you get.  People like to be acknowledged and it gives everyone a sense of participation.

Link your website on everything:

Put a link to your website on everything within reason.  Any comment form that asks for it, any profile you fill out, add it as a signature to your emails, and post it for your friends.  The more you post it the more clicks you might get.

Brag:

Tell everyone everywhere of your site.  Writer’s Groups, Facebook Pages, Twitter, and other places.  Just make sure you don’t violate Terms of Service and get flagged as SPAM.

Network:

Networking is big business.  Its also hard work.  When you meet new people, you have to be willing to admit you write.  I do it almost every time I meet new people.  I let people know any time the topic comes up.  Go to conventions, writers workshops, and any other place where writers are gathering.  Put together some simple (and usually very affordable) business cards.  Pass them out like candy at every convention, workshop, and function you attend.   Have your name, website, and contact information on there.  You never know who’s hands it will fall into.  Word of mouth is the biggest advertiser out there.

Advertise:

If you have some money to spend, you can advertise your Facebook Page, website, and more.  There are some cheaper ways then others, but this cost money.  If you self publish a book, you may want to spend a bit of money on advertising.  But the rule I always follow for advertising is this:  Never spend more on advertising then you would make if someone buys what you’re selling.  That is to say, if you make $1 profit on every book you sell don’t spend $2 per flier to advertise it.

Summary:

There is obviously many avenues for marketing your work.  Each of these I mentioned could be a whole course of study by themselves.  My hope is this will bring you to a good starting point.  Get you going, and then you can fly on your own from here.

Questions, Comments, or more?  Feel free to comment.