Using a Blog to Attract Readers

Camp NaNoWriMo is still taking up my free time, so another guest post

By Autumn Birt

Start a Blog. It is one of the first pieces of advice given to aspiring authors. And it ends there like those three words provide all possible information on what you should do with said blog. It is like saying “build a rocket” without mentioning target, trajectory, size, fuel, or range!

When I first heard that advice, I was still trying to figure out how to write a book, much less how to format, e-publish, and market. I didn’t even know enough to ask “What should I do with a blog?” Much less the far more important question, “How do I use it to attract readers?” Starting a blog was something on the to-do list, checked off without much thought.

Over five years later and I’ve learned a few things. And one of them is what the heck to do with a blog, especially how it might help you attract new readers. Here are some quick tips to help you out!

1.Have Focus

By this, I mean everything from post topics to photo scheme. Someone landing on your blog page should know within 20 seconds that you are a writer and in what genre. Use that banner image well! Have it showcase an awesome photo related to your stories or mock-ups of your books. If you have free stories you are giving away, they should be front and center. Don’t leave someone landing on your site wondering what you do and if you are serious about it. Be serious about it.

And the focus does go for post topics too. Your mindset for every post should be “I am trying to attract readers.” So what attracts readers? It might be cooking, but I think there are better topics. Like: what the characters in your story might be cooking. Do they eat dragon? Hydroponic vegetables are grown in zero gravity? Or classic recipes from 1792?

2. Share the Story

One of the biggest mistakes I see new author-bloggers make is they talk only of the writing journey. Which is definitely important. Readers should know this is hard work and a tremendous effort to produce a novel. But you need to share what is going on in the story too!

Readers need to know more than how many months it took you and how many times you almost quit. It doesn’t say anything about what you are actually writing. Share the work you’ve done on creating a synopsis. Get opinions! Share excerpts from the novel, short stories from each of the characters, world building, and research. You spend months creating the background and minutiae of details that end up comprising a whole sentence in the finished novel. Want to know a great place to put all those bits that create the solid framework of the novel without really being visible to the reader? Your blog.

Don’t just tell readers that it took a long time and a lot of work to write a novel. Let them be part of the experience. Show, don’t tell holds true in blogging too.

3. Don’t Make it All About You

No one likes to hear incessantly about someone as if they are a narcissist in a room of mirrors. And that holds true about your blog and your stories. Have posts looking for feedback. Better yet, take that other piece of new writer advice to “read a lot of books” to heart and write book reviews! What better way is there to attract readers than to help them find new books?

Network with other authors. Offer guest posts and interview fellow writers. And don’t forget to reply to comments and thank people for stopping by. If you don’t know where to find other authors to network with … well this is probably a better use of social media than spamming potential readers about a new release. Look for authors in your genre on Twitter under the correct hashtag. Join a writer’s group on Facebook (I have two if you are looking!). The good news is meeting other authors is easier than tracking down new readers.

These three things will get you started. If I had a final piece of advice it would be that readers don’t come overnight. Expecting huge results of new followers and fans to your new blog would be an anomaly. Don’t get frustrated. Just like writing a novel, perseverance will create outcomes. You know very well that giving up produces zero results.

And take it from someone whose fifth blog post hit the front page of Freshly Pressed, fast, early exposure is sometimes not the best thing. I hadn’t found my voice or topic when that happened. I ended up with over a 1000 new followers and absolutely no clue what to say to them. Because I’d randomly started a blog because I was working on a book and I was blogging about every odd and random thing that popped into my head. The post that made it big? It was on Work/Life Balance. Not writing. I don’t think I even mentioned I was a writer in it! Oh to go back now…

I can’t, but hopefully I can give you some advice to get it right! And if you are a writer with a blog, I’d love to see it. I’m looking for a few writing blogs to go over and feature in my next course: Blogging for Authors. So if you don’t mind exposing your website to a critical eye and getting some feedback on things to tweak, leave a comment with your website in the notes below!

Best of luck and happy blogging AND writing!

Autumn is a best-selling author in fantasy, epic fantasy, and war – not all of the same series, though! She is the author of the epic fantasy, adventure trilogy on elemental magic, the Rise of the Fifth Order. Her newest series is Friends of my Enemy, a military dystopian/ dark fantasy tale laced with romance. Friends of my Enemy which was released in full in 2015. Meanwhile, she is working on a new epic fantasy trilogy, Games of Fire, set in the same world as the Rise of the Fifth Order. If she stops goofing off and enjoying hobbies such as hiking, motorcycling, and kayaking, she may even be able to release all the books in 2016. Book 1, Sparks of Defiance, was released in March!

Stop by her website and blog to learn more about the worlds of her books and to pick up writing tips, workbooks, and courses at www.AutumnWriting.com. You can also find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Author.Autumn.Birt or more frequently on twitter @Weifarer.

 

fifth order

friends of my enemy

Pat Flewelling, on alternative plotting

It’s quid pro quo time.. over a year ago I posted on Pat’s blog (here‘s a link to the blog), now she’s returning the favor.

With me writing for Camp NaNoWriMo right now, this is an appropriate post.

I’m not as prolific, but few people are!

At last count, I’ve written 59 novel-length manuscripts since 1993, and I’ve just come back from a weekend-long novel writing marathon with the better half of # 60. Some have been completely pre-planned. Some were written off the cuff. Most haven’t been published, because they just haven’t been solid enough.

When I thoroughly plotted the story in advance, one of two things would always

The Marathon

The Marathon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

happen: either I would deviate wildly off course, or I would get so bored that I’d just stop writing altogether. I often mistook a tangent as some kind of award-winning plot-twist, and having to delete 10-15% of the manuscript was a real killer to my motivation. And sometimes, I was just bored, because there was no sense of discovery left over, no room to play around. I was choking my own creativity.

At the other extreme, stories that had no predestination took longer to finish. I’d often spend hours staring slightly cross-eyed at the ceiling, trying to remember where I was taking that last thought. I’d also ended up spending countless hours editing after the fact, removing tens of pages of verbal dross.

But for this year’s novel writing marathon, I decided to try something new. I planned only so much, but I also left major plot points blank.

I thought of it like a vacation itinerary. Let’s say that I knew I was leaving Montreal on a Monday at 7:00 a.m., and that I had to be in Toronto by Saturday at noon. Let’s say, furthermore, that I also wanted to visit Ottawa, Brockville, Kingston, and Oshawa, before finally heading into the Big Smoke. As long as I got to Ottawa by 4:00 p.m., I could take any route I wanted. I could take the back roads and enjoy a longer drive through the country, or I could stick to the highways and get there sooner, then park the car and stroll around on foot before leaving at 4:00. I wouldn’t decide which route to take to Ottawa until I was in the car with the radio on and a coffee in hand.

During the marathon, I discovered not only that I actually stuck to the plan, but I wrote in an unforeseen major character, who made the plot more engaging and resolved a lot of plot holes. I finally had a planner that would direct my story toward a fun and logical conclusion, but one that left plenty of opportunities to make stuff up as I went along. Most surprisingly of all, because I had a known destination and unknown roads, I found my narrative pacing became the strongest it’s ever been.

But, after this many novels, I know that what works for one project doesn’t necessarily work for another. Likewise, what works for me may not work for you. All I can suggest is that you keep experimenting until you find what works best, and have fun with it along the way.

8 Important Steps I Follow to Write a Book a Year

I haven’t yet succeeded in doing this, but it’s worth my consideration. This is my first Guest Post as well, and it needed some editing:

I have few business ventures that are as rewarding as writing a book.

Please don’t interpret that in financial terms; most any business author will tell you that getting rich on writing a book is a pipe dream. But the ancillary benefits are amazing:

• Credibility — People take you more seriously when you have a book.

• Marketing — Books are far more powerful than brochures and are roughly the same cost to produce. And people just can’t throw away a book!

• Confidence — For many (including me), writing a book fulfills a long-held dream

• Launchpad — One book can launch a series of other products (follow-up books, seminars, webinars, audiobooks, etc.).  That is why I have committed to

That is why I have committed to write one book a year without fail. I’ve written five books to date, and I am currently working on both numbers six (I’m writing it now) and seven (it’s in the research phase). What I write are business books, not fiction, and my “steps” refer to the former, not the latter. The steps are also about how to write the book, not how to market or sell it (by far the more difficult part). So, have you been wondering how to actually sit down and write your first book? Then here are those eight steps.

1. Determine a concept. You may think you have this down already, but the key is to vet the concept with some honest and trusted advisors. Find people who will tell you the brutal truth and then listen to their counsel. Sometimes, we fall in love with our own ideas so much that we get blind to what people actually want to read.

2. ‘Avatar’ your reader. Design the profile (avatar) of your typical reader. Who is s/he? What and how does this person like to read? How do you want this reader to be affected? When you understand your reader, you gain clarity on how to both structure and write the book. In this step, establish your “big takeaway.” What really matters to the reader? What do you want him or her to walk away with?

3. Identify major sections. With your theme and target reader in mind, break the book up into several major sections. The purpose here is to make the book easier for you to write, and simpler for the reader to read. The sections should work like the acts in a play, providing something of a course to follow.

4. Identify chapter themes. Start by identifying your “big idea” — the one thing you want your reader to take away from every chapter. In my current project I literally include the words “big idea” in every chapter, along with a one-sentence takeaway. In every case, I identify that major point before I begin to write. This keeps me focused on my message and helps to prevent me from going off on a tangent. Don’t worry about titling your chapters just yet. Those can be written at any time. You will likely find that the titles come more easily after you write the text.

5. Rough write. Many business writers get bogged down because they try to craft the perfect sentence during the first writing. Big mistake. The words might sound good, but you lose impact because the bigger points get lost. I find much greater success in the “brain dump” method — just free-writing without paying much attention to word choice, punctuation, etc. The resulting content is a mess by the time you finish this step, but free-writing is so much easier to do than the eventual real writing.

6. Form write. When I have done a rough write on the entire book, I go back and write for style,

7. Polish write. With my form-writing complete, I come back and polish things up. Here is what’s key at this stage: Read the text out loud. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough. You will make tremendous improvements when you do this, because you’ll hear the sentences read back to you. You’ll find yourself saying, “Now wait, that doesn’t make any sense,” or, “I can make that clearer still.” Some writers read their manuscript out loud three or four times before they consider it complete. (Note: I read this blog out loud before submitting it!)

8. Get a copy or line editor. Big mistake: editing your own work. Second big mistake: getting your spouse to do it. Line editors are a special breed of people with an attention to detail that is uncanny. And they are detached enough to be honest about your work. Their job is not to critique the arc of your narrative; their job is to make sure you don’t look stupid. I don’t know how else to say that. Skip this step, and you’ll likely end up looking foolish. You can find editors who will bid for work at elance.com.

There you have it: writing a book in eight steps. It’s not easy, but it is possible these days for virtually anyone to write one. And it might just change your world.

I’m giving a friend and fellow writer some hype here:

  • Come out to celebrate the launch of Judge Not. Food will be provided, and the first 20 people through the door will get a special gift. And while you’re there, try one of Mariposa Cafe’s fine selection of hot and cold beverages.

    Copies of Judge Not will be available for sale and signing at the event. If you want to buy your own copy in advance and have it signed, feel free to visit the following link and buy a copy online: http://amzn.com/1480277525

Words From Shelly Hitz

Shelly is one of my self-publishing mentors.

Growing up, I always wanted to be an accomplished musician…especially a soloist.  Most of my family have amazing musical talent.  Some sing, some play musical instruments, some write music and some do all of the above.

I always tried to be that person.  The talented musician.  
 
But, that’s not who God created me to be.  Yes, I can hold a pitch.  And, yes, I can sing in a choir.  But, I’m not a soloist.
 
I always feel bad for those trying out for American Idol who have been told their whole life that they are an amazing singer…only to get publically humiliated on national television.
 
You know, it’s easy to compare ourselves with others.  
 
I’m also a runner, or should I say a jogger.  🙂  However, my husband is a very fast runner and exceptional athlete.  When we participate in 5k races or running clubs, he is the one getting the medals and prizes.  I am the one at the back of the pack, just trying to catch my breath.
And I find myself comparing who I am with others.  
 
I’m not an elite athlete and never will be.  Even when I try my hardest and am the most disciplined, I am still only “average.”
 
One day, I realized that I tend to compare my weakness with others’ strengths.  It’s like comparing apples to oranges.
 
And when it comes to writing, publishing and marketing your book…it’s important to be yourself.  To be who God created you to be and not try to fit someone else’s mold or compare yourself to every other writer.
 
Be yourself.
 
Stop comparing yourself to others…it only leads to what my mom calls, “Stinkin’ Thinkin'” and failure.
 
Instead, Jeffrey, see the strengths you have, be yourself and take action publishing and marketing your book.  Get started here: http://www.self-publishing-coach.com/book-marketing.html
 
 
– Shelley Hitz
This isn’t an affiliate link.
Enhanced by Zemanta