The Biggest Marketing Opportunity Most Authors Run Away From
Contributor
Written by
Christelle Lujan
February 2015
Contributor
Written by
Christelle Lujan
February 2015

It’s no secret that marketing is among an author’s least favorite professional tasks. It feels pushy, impersonal and foreign to those used to spending most of their time surrounded by artistic endeavors.

Whether you’re familiar with the tools and strategies needed to promote your work or not, the attitude around marketing is almost always the same: “I know I need it, but it’s not my thing.”

Today, perhaps more than ever before, authors need to be invested in their own brand. For published authors, you know that the efforts put in by your publisher can often fall way short of your expectations. For aspiring authors, catching the eye of a publisher can be next to impossible if you don’t have an existing audience to sell to.

The value is undeniable, but the hesitation is real.

You don’t want to feel like the car salesman of your books, but you want your books to sell, of course.

Retain your artistic soul and initiate your marketing by starting off with this one perfect tactic.

A Marketing Solution Made for You

You may hate me for saying it. I know you hate hearing it. But any author who is not blogging is missing the biggest marketing opportunity at their disposal.

Blogging, and content marketing, should be a match made in heaven for authors, and yet so few utilize this strategy.

As a She Writes reader, you obviously have a leg up; but are you posting with regularity to your own audience of readers?

Probably not.

And I know why. Most authors have the same reasons for not blogging:

  • “I don’t know what to write about.”
  • “I don’t get how this will bring me more readers. Won’t writing more books do that?”
  • “I don’t want to brag about myself. No one likes an author with an ego.”
  • “I write fiction. Fiction doesn’t work with blogging.”
  • “Blogging is what my teenage niece does. I’m a professional.”

These misconceptions about blogging are making authors miss out on a huge chance to reach out and touch readers. The avoidance boils down to two main issues: a) the value of blogging is unclear and b) the strategy for what to blog about is undefined.

 

The Value of Blogging as an Author

Everyone says “you need to be blogging” and I don’t mean to add to the endless chatter, but does anyone ever tell you why you need to be blogging? Businesses do it, individuals do it, celebrities do it . . . but why should you?

 

Identity

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but authors (new and old) tend to be nameless, faceless members of a huge crowd. According to The Future of Ink, 3,500 books are published every day in the US. What consumer could possibly be familiar with even a fraction of those authors?

In the avalanche of books and content that hit the market every day, you have to create an identity beyond your name printed on the cover of your work.

With a blog, readers will get to know your personality, your passion, your history and by way of knowing you, they will want to know your work. This is why celebrity memoirs and ghost written celeb novels are such a roaring success. Everyone wants to read something written by someone they know.

 

Reach

Blogging is the best way to get new visitors to your author website. Hands down. Right now, the only people who go to your website are those who hear about you first and seek out more information.

When you blog, you are telling search engines like Google and Bing, “Hi, I’m here, I exist, send me people interested in what I do!”

Blogging is how you go from “known only to those who know you” to “discovered by those who care about what you care about.”

 

Richness

No, you may not make money directly off of blogging. And even if you do, that’s not what this point is about.

Blogging gives you the opportunity to enrich your readers experience with your work. How many times have you finished reading a book and wished you could know more?

You have an amazing opportunity to do that with a blog. Rainbow Rowell, for example, does an amazing job answering questions about her beloved characters and pulling readers closer to her books.

If you focus your books on mental illness in teens, you can discuss experiences that inspire your novels. If you have written a memoir on motherhood, you can continue sharing stories beyond what your book has done. Odds are there is so much more to your story than what made it to print; take it to the next level through blogging.

The value of blogging doesn’t come from simply having another place to share events and celebrate a book release. Make it the way your readers and colleagues can peek behind the curtain and fall deeper into your work.

 

Where to Start

Once you have the platform itself (which may take a little help from your web expert), there are dozens of ways to unearth blog topic ideas. Here are a few any author can start with:

  • Answer questions readers have asked you in the past
  • Give insight into the creation and publishing process
  • Post as your characters
  • Shed more light on your works’ biggest themes
  • Explore questions that arise throughout your creative process

 

But it’s not the idea generation that will make you a successful blogger and thus a successful marketer. It’s the skills you innately possess that make blogging the biggest marketing opportunity for you. Because blogging is all about storytelling. You are telling your own story and the story of your work. You are a writer, and this is the chance to use your writing to market and sell your books.

Emerge from the crowd of authors hoping to get noticed. Tell the world “I am here” by taking your first leap into blogging. 

Let's be friends

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Comments
  • Tammy Flanders Hetrick

    Timely! I'm just about to launch mine, which I've been saying for six months now ... the hesitation is real, indeed, and paralyzing. What you say about Reach resonates most, and has inspired me to Just Do It Now. So I'm off to edit my initial posts in prep for launch THIS WEEK!!! Thanks!

  • Michelle Cox

    Hi, Christelle,

    Thanks for this excellent article, or should I say "blog post?"!   For the last year I've been sifting through the noise out there, urging writers to have a blog.  So far, I haven't yet been convinced that this is really worth my valuable time.  You are the first person to very clearly state why it is important and to offer suggestions about what to post.  I'm very grateful!

  • Christelle Lujan

    Thank you so much for all the love and questions! To address one of the big questions (What do I write about?) this is usually the first big hurdle to overcome. I completely agree with the recommendations to blog about books you're reading or blog about your research. The best time to start blogging is BEFORE you publish your work. Building an audience before your release will be huge for sales. I personally enjoy writing about writing. And while I'm not a published author, I have plenty of discoveries, failures and successes to discuss. And let's face it, writers are big readers so it doesn't hurt to make your fellow writers fans! As others have mentioned, blogging can be just as much about making connections and inserting yourself into the industry as it is about attracting readers. If you've been published, start developing topics out of questions that arise during your publishing experience - be that reader questions or industry questions. If you haven't published anything, try to think about the themes you are most drawn to. Will your writing focus on love? Are you a big proponent of the underdog tale? Odds are, you know what kind of stories you enjoy even if you haven't begun to write any for yourself. Draw in an audience who also likes those stories and then your books will fit in with their taste. Huffington Post is a great place to get inspiration on what is being written about within niche topics. I hope this helps!

    To address the issue of "I'm blogging and it's not working" I'd offer three suggestions.

    1. Make sure you are posting consistently. Whether it's once a week or once a day, you have to post with regularity or your audience will move on.

    2. Guest post. Guest post. Guest post. Get your work in front of similar blog audiences and lead them back to your site with a link in the byline.

    3. Get to know some distribution methods. Unfortunately, blogs don't always sell themselves. Some people can get lucky and discover a niche topic with a cult-like following, but odds are, you'll need to have a strategic approach to social media, SEO, email marketing and more! (I plan to blog about all of those topics as well.) Good luck everyone!

  • Valerie Bonham Moon

    Oh, Zetta, that is right on target about Facebook.  It used to be fluff and funny stuff, but lately it's all doom and gloom.

  • Zetta Brown

    Thanks for putting a reminder out about blogging. I prefer blogging over Facebook and Twitter because it's more personal and I don't get depressed by logging in to my blog and seeing bad news straight away.

  • M.F. Webb

    Laura Brennan, it's Hook's Waltz on Blogger. 

    http://hookswaltz.blogspot.com/

    Thank you for asking!

    Another advantage to a blog like this is that it keeps my research organized and coherent for later use (unlike my horrible notes).

  • Good article and thanks for highlighting Rainbow Rowell's blog. Her blog does indeed make me want to read Eleanor and Park.

    Chantal

  • Patricia Robertson

    I love blogging. I've had a blog for many years but only started being serious about it a year ago. I find it's a good discipline for me, forcing me to keep writing. An added benefit is that eventually I will be able to take some of my blog posts and put into a book. I've been doing a blog on the Psalms for several years. I pick a new Psalm each week to reflect on. This answers the problem of what do I write about. After I've done all 150 of them I plan to put them into a book! My other blog is more random, on life and writing. Sometimes I write about writing and book publishing, other times I just write about life. I find I have different readers. Some like my posts on the Psalms, others like my posts on writing.

  • Shelah L. Maul

    Excellent article! I was cautious to get a blog going for fear of putting myself "too out there" but for all the reasons you've mentioned it has been a wonderful way to connect with people! So worth getting over the initial discomfort with it!

  • Laura Brennan

    M.F. Webb: WOW! What's the blog? It sounds awesome.

    Claire: I absolutely agree that we have to be authentic and write about something we truly enjoy.  On the other hand, I don't think it's wrong to go, hey, having a blog would help my career, what can I write about that would really be of use to other people and that I'd enjoy sharing?  It's about finding a way to connect.

  • Claire McAlpine

    To keep it separate from my creative stories, I decided to blog about the books I read, it meant it was easy to do on a regular basis because I read a book a week and it's a way to support other writers and become connected to readers. I love it and while its not directly connected to publishing a book, at least I no longer feel so isolated from the writing/reading world. I think we have to want to write a blog and to be as authentic as we can to engage with an audience and not go into it for an ulterior purpose.

  • M.F. Webb

    Joan Leah Gibson, I have some ideas. My book isn't finished either, but a couple of years ago someone told me that the research I was doing was interesting and recommended I should start a blog to chronicle it. So, despite my prior insistence that I would never write non-fiction again (bad journalism experience), I did, and I'm really enjoying the process. My book is a literary fantasy adventure (the story of Captain Hook from Peter Pan as told by the woman who stows away aboard his ship) and my blog contains all kinds of bits of research that I find interesting and want to share. There's so much I learn that I can't make room for in the book, and while I don't have a huge number of readers, I get consistent hits from a number of countries, including people who find me through search engines when they have a question I've addressed.

  • Susan Ito

    I've been blogging on and off - two different blogs - since 2006. However, the topics have ranged widely from fitness and health, to writing fiction. I don't have a book out right now, so it will be interesting to see how these blogs translate.

  • Geri Givens Taylor

    I've been blogging for years but I have not seen a difference in book sales.

    However!!!! I have met a lot of great people, so it's worth it.

  • Lloyd Lofthouse

    I'm a firm believer in Blogging, and if it takes selling books to make believers of doubters, here's the proof I offer.

    My first book came out in December 2007. I didn't seriously start Blogging properly---after taking several Blogging workshops through the California Writers Club in late 2009---until January 2010.

    In 2008, my first novel sold a total of 221 copies or an average of 18 a month. In 2009 that novel sold another 341 copies.

    Then I started Blogging publishing several posts daily.

    By the end of 2010 and 1,000 Blog posts later---yes, one-thousand posts later---that novel sold an additional 2,375 copies. In 2011, as my first Blog, iLookChina.net, continued to attract more readers (it now averages more than 300 daily), the book sold another 4,641 copies. By the end of January 2015, that first novel has sold more than 21,000 copies. I'm convinced that if I hadn't learned how to Blog property and then stayed with it as I was taught in those workshops, that would have never happened.

  • Laura Brennan

    Joan, I'm looking into this right now, the whole "what to write about" thing.  I have a niche blog, but for my author blog, that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish.  What I'm working to clarify in my own mind is, who do I want to be in this world?  I write mysteries, so that's a given, and they're historical, and I like whimsy, so those are the things about me that I'd like to come through.

    But then there's the other side - what would the people who would read my novels want to read about?  The more I can serve them and their needs, the better.  That's a little tougher, and I'm trying to ferret that out.  People don't just read for entertainment, they read blogs for help and advice and to learn.  So I have to figure out what they want that I can offer, and then deliver it (ideally) with my own personality.  Isobel, I think this goes to your question, too -- what do you offer them that they need?  And then go to places where people who need that can be found, and make sure they know about you.

    I'm actually taking a course on this!  I'll update the post if I get any definitive answers to share.  :)

  • Isobel cunningham

    Maybe someone can give me some advice about blogging. I have 180 posts up and I have about 20 readers. Honestly! The only alive I am given is to read other people's blogs. I do, from time to time but guess they, like me, are busy writing the blog, writing whatever else they write and cooking, dusting under the bed etc. please help me. There must be a better way

  • Rita Arens

    I just published a post on BlogHer about reasons to start blogging in 2015. Here are my tips: http://www.blogher.com/why-start-blog-day-and-age

  • Valerie Bonham Moon

    I'm in the same boat as Joan Gibson -- what to write about.  I have a couple of blogs, external to SheWrites.  One is just general and I've had it for decades -- poor thing is pretty lonely in cyberspace, but gets dusted off every now and again when something gets me going and I need to release some steam. 

    The writer-blog though, lacks a focus even though I try to restrict the topics to what my novels will be about, but I have no books yet to highlight why I'm blogging.  The topics lack a cohesion and whatever audience I have seems to be composed mostly of [crickets].  I feel as if I have a megaphone but I'm standing in the middle of the ocean. 

    Once I have BOOKS, I'll be able to hook my thumbs under the labels of my cyber-vest and look proudly out from behind the dashboard of my blog, but I suppose, until then, I'll just keep plugging along.   :)

  • Janet Singer

    Great post. About six years ago, I started writing my memoir about my son's journey through severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. Four years ago I decided to start blogging about OCD and my blog now receives around 15,000 hits a month and reaches readers in 167 countries. There is no question having my blog as part of my platform helped me land a publisher, and I'm happy to report my book, Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery, was released a few weeks ago. And I'm still blogging with no plans to stop!

  • Joan Leah Gibson

    This is a great blog post! But, I do have a question, one that's bee non my mind for a long time:

    What if you've never been published? How/what should one blog about then? I'm working on a book (my first-it will still be awhile longer before it's complete and I even think about publishing) but how should I go about building an "authors platform" if I haven't yet become an author..? 

    Thanks for any insight you or anyone else can shed on this question. 

  • Becky Livingston

    What a wonderful article. In the past year, I put aside my blog to focus on the writing of a memoir. Everything you say resonates. Finding an organic way to revitalize my old blog has been keeping me awake. Reading this blog post is very timely - it's time to bring mine back to life. Thank you, Christelle.

     

  • Tarla Kramer

    For me blogging has had unexpected benefits like leading me into a couple hours week of paid work (from home, hooray!) and from there new skills which will help me find further work.

  • Kamy Wicoff Brainstorming

    Hooray for blogging! I agree completely -- if that isn't obvious already. :)