My best promotional source

Craig here today. I’ve read it before, but years of experience cements the comment: Your blog is your best promotional opportunity. Let’s talk about how it works, because it may not be how you think.

There are a couple of things you have to accept in order to make this work. Blogging is a form of social media, and you are the brand. You may think your book(s) are the brand, but that isn’t true.

I recommend not opening a book-titled blog. While this is curable over time, you might want to avoid this trap. What happens if you write a second, or subsequent book? The book isn’t the brand, you are.

Pick a title that has more longevity. I call my personal blog Entertaining Stories. (Shameless plug there.) You can see that it allows me to expand my content into multiple books, even multiple genres without the need for change.

Create what is called an “About Me” page right away. This is where you introduce yourself to the world. This is the place that should clearly say this is an author’s blog. People will know what to expect, and you won’t have to keep reminding them. This is important, because you are the brand.

Think about how many products you buy and really enjoy. Do you regularly send emails to these companies, find their blogs and leave comments? Probably not. I love Ivory Soap, but I’ve never contacted them about anything. If you think about it, how much content could one of these companies post to keep their site fresh and people coming back?

So what’s an author to do? The answer is simple, write about other things. I have regular blog followers who have never read one of my books, but they keep coming back. You may think this is counter productive, but it isn’t. I’ve interacted with some for years, but eventually they take the plunge. They read one of my books, because they like who I am. Some of them went on to read my entire backlist. These people have become friends, and that leads me to the other point. Blogging is a form of social media… Be Social.

Get yourself a Gravitar to use right off the bat. You want to establish some familiarity, but you can change it if you want. Then go into the blog world, and start reading. Leave your calling card (Gravitar) to let them know you were there. This is a start, but it isn’t enough. You have to interact with the posts you like.

It really is similar to a Kindergarden rule. If you would have a friend, be one. I know this is tough for some of us, I could be the poster boy for introverts anonymous so I force myself. I assure you, I’m better off for it. Leave those comments, and not just “Nice post.” Say something to let them know you read the post. Ask a question even. Bloggers are happy to interact, and questions are golden.

If you do this, it won’t be long before they visit your site and start leaving comments for you. Make sure to answer your comments. It won’t always work this way. I’ve courted some bloggers, mostly authors, who never visit. If their content is intriguing, I follow them anyway. I’ve learned a ton from my fellow authors, and follow some who never interact. My observation is these sites get very few likes, as indicated by Gravitars, and almost no comments. They’re working pretty hard to produce great content, but they aren’t benefitting from their blogging.

When visitors come to your site, you need to have something to keep them around and interested. I use the banner image I shared at the top of this post. It’s a funny picture based on my own image. I also have a sidebar that has all my wares on it. This is easy to ignore if people choose, but it’s also convenient if they want to check out one of my books. Yes, I know it doesn’t work that way on phones, but I can only do so much. That’s the framework, a banner image and my sidebar. The meat of any blog is the content we post. So what should you post about?

Post about your daily life. I’ve gained fans because I posted pictures of my sourdough starter, and images of the bread I baked. Some love pictures of my dogs, others like my original character Lisa Burton the robot girl. I’ll bet I have come right out and said, “Buy my books” a dozen times in four years. I will share the occasional great review I receive; I post about word metrics and struggles I face during writing. I also post about camping trips and hunting for mushrooms. People interact because they find something interesting. The sidebar is always there.

If you think about it, it’s kind of obvious. If you’ve ever bought anything from an Etsy site, Zazzle, or even used PayPal, you get bombarded with offers in your email box. I delete them without reading them at all. I don’t want my blog content to get skimmed over without reading it.

I’m a frequent poster, and try to update five times per week, more or less. I only have one regularly scheduled post, Lisa Burton Radio. Lisa interviews characters from other authors’ books to help them promote. Even this depends upon having enough guests. I have some sporadic regular items too like The Idea Mill where I grab interesting news that might inspire some fiction, and Macabre Macaroni which are micro-fiction pieces in October. They each have their fans.

There are a few cautions, but your mileage may vary here. I try not to post controversial things on my blog. Controversy is great for fiction, but bad for authors in the real world. I am friends with everyone from the far left to the far right. We all get along together too. My blog has no political or religious agenda, as an example. Believe whatever you want, I’m just here to have fun.

It’s important to keep your content fresh, but even once per week is enough. Three or four times per year isn’t going to produce the results you want. Story Empire is growing by leaps and bounds right now, but we didn’t start out that way. We post twice per week, with a third post being a collection of helpful links. It’s working well for us, and you can duplicate these results.

Blogging can take over, and I’ve seen it happen. I look at it like a cold beverage with friends before I head home in the evening. I keep my content fresh, but I don’t live online. I have books to write and a real life too.

Blogging is a long game. There is nothing that will produce immediate results, and it takes time. Everyone starts somewhere. I just had one of my posts re-blogged by someone who only has five followers. Good for her. I was there once myself. Start a blog, write your “About Me” page, make a calling card and put yourself out there. You’ll make some wonderful friends, and the word about your books will spread. You’ll find others offering space for you to promote, you’ll find people to consult with. I met all of my beta readers via blogging, and they are golden. I’ve met editors, ARC readers, artists, and formatters. These are good people to know, and I met them all through blogging.

C. S. Boyack

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97 thoughts on “My best promotional source

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  3. You’re right about the personal info, Craig – besides loving your books, I like reading about the puppies, Lisa, your trips, etc. Reminds me I need to work on that for my own blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post, Craig! And I agree with posting about everyday things; I love seeing the pics of your furry “kids”, and reading about your trips. Good tip on the “About Me” page; now I have to check mine. My blog needs an update anyhow πŸ™‚ Great advice from SE, as always!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks, as usual, Craig. I’m interested in how people find their blog (as a promotional tool) versus their email list (if you have one). For me, my email list is a FAR better tool, but then i’ve only been blogging for about 9 months, so perhaps that’s not enough time.
    I have another few questions (sorry!):
    You say post regularly. But I think that may be a red herring. Over the last few months, I have done a lot of research, and it seems to suggest that a few posts of high quality may actually be more effective, combined with promoting the hell out of them, which I suppose can work if you are posting writing craft tips, or Scrivener stuff, etc (perhaps I’ve just answered my own question). But that leads onto my next question:
    What to blog about? I like your suggestion of you (the author) as a brand, although a ‘general rule of thumb’ would be to limit what you blog about to your work, on a roughly 80:20 ratio. I like the fact that I am more than just a writer, and have posted about my life beyond writing, but I worry that i’m just creating an electronic diary and inviting people to read it!

    I also realise that I am a relative newbie around these parts (although several of the commenters have been really helpful!). I am just interested to hear from people with much more experience that I.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Where to start… I don’t have a mailing list, for personal reasons. I’m probably missing out on that front. When I talk about posting regularly, I don’t mean daily. There are some very successful bloggers out there who do, but I don’t think it’s required. I have my posts shared automatically to various media, but the goal is to direct them back to my blog. I don’t worry as much about a ratio. When it’s time to update, I ask what’s important to me at the moment. Social media is very “moment” oriented. I will throw out the occasional tip, or something I’ve just learned. Many times it’s about what I worked on for the day; could be pruning a peach tree, could be 1500 words of new fiction. There really is nothing wrong with an electronic diary, but as an author you have to remind people about that from time to time. I can feel a follow up post or two formulating as I write this. I believe there is a difference in promoting for individual sales, and promoting for fans. Fans are my long game.

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  9. Hi Craig! I was working on a post similar to this yesterday, but it wasn’t this eloquent or informative. I try to run two blogs but I post in the author blog more than my personal blog. As you said, I keep politics out of the author blog, but from time to time I will put controversial issues on the personal. Thanks for sharing this advice and encouragement. It’s great help for frustrated newbies, procrastinators, and those who go on hiatus for too long.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great post! I have found over the course of blogging once a week for a few years that I always get the most comments, the most likes, and the most shares when I write something personal. Even deeply personal. You make some terrific points in your post and though I’m still only a once-a-week blogger, my aim is to attract people one at a time, people who are genuinely interested in what they find there.Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s true. People aren’t actually looking for details about a book we’ve written. Personal stuff always gets the best response. My regulars were all earned one at a time, and that’s how this works, author or not. By the way, I think once per week is fine, as long as you’re consistent.

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  11. Wonderful post on blogging, Craig! It’s my favorite form of social media,although I don’t blog as frequently as I once did. I need to get on the ball with Missinglttr.com too. I’ve got a list of blog posts in the hopper right now, I just need to nail down the time to fit them in.

    Something that resonated with me in your post is the tip not to become involved in controversial issues. That’s always been my stance too. I love interacting with my blogging friends and other authors for fun. We get enough of the heavy stuff in the real world. That concept also carries over into other forms of social media as well (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.), because as you said–we ARE our brand, and those sites are an extension of it.

    I’ve been without internet for a while and am playing catch-up, but the SE post was one had to check immediately πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  12. By the looks of things, you’ve hit the nail on the head, Craig. I’ve just recently started blogging more on my own site. I let it go for a while, and now I’m paying the price for that.

    And isn’t it funny Sue and I recommended the same app to you? She’s right; Ben is great. Drip campaigns are awesome, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Excellent advice, Craig. I think I can count on my hand the number of posts about writing that I have published. I don’t consider myself an expert so I just keep on telling stories and the numbers keep growing. I wish I could say all the followers lead to sales but it just doesn’t happen. I think I’m at the point of blogging for blogging’s sake and being comfortable with it. Thanks, again.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Excellent advice, Craig! I too follow some bloggers who never visit my site and to be honest, I’ve only really started cultivating my site in the last two years. But, the number of followers has grown exponentially. Your advice is spot-on!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Fantastic advice, Craig. I’m more engaged in the blogging community now and have connected with so many talented, supportive authors, that I now consider dear friends. Thanks for sharing this today. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I think this is EXCELLENT advice on starting an author blog. My issue has always been sticking with it. I get going, and then my writing time is always interrupted or something comes up and the next thing I know, I haven’t written for months! I also find it difficult to balance posting about my personal life and also protecting it. I know eventually I will find that line. Your advice is completely spot on, though – some authors will never go back to your blog and comment, or respond to the comments on their own blog. I find that to be frustrating, but some of them I do still follow. I have learned a lot from some of those blogs, as you mentioned.

    In the meantime, I keep plugging along, and I quite enjoy reading your blogs! Introvert or no, you do a great job responding to your comments and producing fun and fresh content. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  17. A very well written post, Craig, and I agree with you on pretty much everything. Especially the “no controversy” rule. I don’t discuss politics or religion on my blog, except in the most general of terms, and that, very seldom. (I might say “sending thoughts and prayers” your way, for instance, but that is the absolute limit.) I don’t allow anything overtly erotic, either. And none of this is because I don’t have political or religious beliefs, or am easily offended by books with graphic sex. My feelings on these issues don’t matter. What matters to me is having a friendly, fun blog where everyone feels welcome. I have had to unfollow blogs where things got heated and there were far too many rants. If I want to read things like that, I will follow opinion blogs. There are plenty to choose from. But when I’m visiting a writer, I want to read about writing, books, publishing, inspirations, experiences that impact writers, and works in progress.

    Just my personal take on it, but I agree with you that being friends and networking with all sorts of people is a good thing, whether they vote or pray or write the same way you do, or not. Sharing this! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Marcia. I think you have the whole spirit of what I was going for. It isn’t faking who you are, it’s almost a filtering of sorts. Everyone is welcome at both my blog hangouts, and that’s what I’m going for.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Excellent advice, Craig. I’ve met you and all my other friends through my blog. I preach the same words, but unfortunately, some never listen. Mind if I add one caveat? Slow blogging, where you blog once a week or once every two weeks (once you’re established), is also an option if you use drip marketing. Drip marketing will keep people visiting your site every day by recycling old posts. Some days I get more views when I don’t write new content, then when I do.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. Thanks for your thoughts on blogging, Craig. Good point that this is a long-term thing. I’m a bit of a stop/start blogger, lols, … posting regularly for a while and then it slides … oh dear! I must knuckle down πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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