Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How Blogs Are Bad to the Bone.

As writers, we are told to blog so that we can build an author platform, gain a following of fans and boost book sales. Unfortunately, most bloggers will never see that kind of success. Why is that? Is it the blog or the blogger?

In this post I'll be examining the blog. What are some of the pitfalls of using a blog as a marketing tool for fiction and what you can do to overcome them?

Pitfall #1 - Blogs don’t come with instructions.

Well, technically, they do. However, I’m not talking about how to post pictures or change your theme. I’m talking about gaining a readership and advancing your writing career. Even the gurus don’t really have a guaranteed formula. It’s more like a template of what usually works, or what’s worked lately. Blog marketing is part science, part art, and dollop of “let’s throw it out there and see what sticks.”

So how do you know what will work for you?

Your first priority is to define your goals. Most bloggers I talk to don’t know if their blog is successful because they’ve never taken the time to defined what they want from it. What is success for you? Is it the number of visitors? The number of click-thru’s to your Amazon page? Take the time to define two or three important goals for your blog.

Once you know your goals, then set a timeline for achieving them. With a timeline in place, you'll be able to see if things are working or if you need to change your strategy. (I’ll talk more about strategy later this month.)

Groaning yet? Thinking that’s a lot of time to focus on a blog. Yep. It is. Which leads us to pitfall number two.

Pitfall #2 - Blogging is a Time Sink.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Blogging does take time away from your "real" writing. But most people spend more time on it than they need. So keep an eye on your prize. Focus your blogging toward achieving those goals you listed above and not just randomly posting whatever comes to mind that day.

A great way to save time and aggravation is to create a blogging plan. Pull out a calendar and look at the next six months. Are there holidays? Book launch dates? Put your goals on the calendar and brainstorm topics and promotions that will help you reach those goals. Schedule your blogs around important dates and determine times when you might need to write in advance to avoid time crunches or vacations.

A plan can also help create consistency in your blogging, which has been shown to increase traffic to a blog. Which reminds me, more visitors are probably high on your list of goals, so let’s talk about the third, and most deadly, problem with blogs....

Pitfall #3 - Getting Google-love for fiction is difficult.

Many of you will use social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to get traffic. They are great for the initial post, but for long-term steady visits, nothing beats being ranked well on search engines. The problem is defining search terms for a fiction blog.

Truthfully, it’s not easy. But here are a few tips that can help you gain some momentum.

  • You’ll want your blog to be listed under the phrases that describe your genre. For example: historical romance or science fiction as well as vampire novel or detective story. If your normal posts are not conducive to those phrases, then consider creating a couple of pages, not blog posts, that define your writing and your genre. Be sure to work the key phrases into your titles and your copy.
  • Think of the topics your writing covers. Does it address an illness? Challenge a societal norm? Does it deal with swords or costumes? Space travel? All of those things are potential search terms for people who are interested in those subjects. They are also great key phrases for attracting those people to you from the search engines.
  • Once you’ve defined the best key phrases for your blog, then focus on the same five to ten phrases regularly. Make sure that you do a couple of posts per month that use one or two of these phrases. Put them in the title and in your copy. The rest of the month you can get creative with your titles, but just a couple of posts a month with key phrases can help you get ranked.

So those are some of the pitfalls of using blogging as a marketing tool for fiction. Next week, we’ll look at the blogger and why some of the problems with blogging stems from...

Bloggers Gone Wild!

Posted by Tamela Buhrke


Margaret Yang said...

Thanks for the great post. I'm looking forward to hearing more about how to make a better blog and also what not to do.

Tamela Buhrke said...

Thanks Margaret!
I'm also looking for feedback from writers. What frustrates you about author marketing? What topics would you like to see covered? I aim to please!

j. a. kazimer said...

Hi Tamela:

Very helpful. The key phrase thing should be a given, but damn if I'd thought about it. Thanks. I do have a question, is there a 'my blog is sucessful' standard?



Tamela Buhrke said...

Yes! I'm going to alternate months with a "Sucks" series and a "What's Working" series. In the "What's Working" series I'll feature bloggers who are successful and look at what they are doing right.
Thanks for the question! Keep 'em coming!

Dave Jackson said...

Outstanding pointers. Couldn't have said it better myself.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I feel as though I've turned into a blogger instead of a writer, so Pitfall #2 is definitely an issue for me. Still, blogging is such fun and I meet so many interesting people... said...

Okay, now I have a starting place. I kept thinking it was like and APAzine, but on a global scale. Maybe it is, but it is certainly more targeted and you've given me something to aim for.

Thea Hutcheson

Tamela Buhrke said...

Hi Thea,

Nothing so large as a zine. Just focus your blog on topics that your writing brings up. Post blogs a couple times a week for steady progress. Target a few posts a month toward your key phrases and you will build a following of readers.