Monday, July 25, 2016

Blogging: An Inexpensive, Powerful Marketing Tool for Authors

By Anne R. Allen 

Do all authors need a blog? Nope. But blogging sure can save you a lot of time and marketing money…and it's the easiest way to establish your author brand.

All writers need to be on social media these days—and a blog is the only social medium where you're in control. Your Facebook page's reach gets more restricted all the time. New Google Plus is unfathomable. Pinterest and Instagram are all about images.

And you're a writer. Blogging is writing.

NOTE: I'm not telling you to use a blog for direct sales. Social media is not about hard sales. It's about making friends, networking and letting people know who you are (also known as "building your brand".) Once people know you, they'll be more likely to buy your book than if you throw your title at random strangers.

I'm amazed at how many new writers still think a book launch involves an expensive party at a local bookstore, a big splash at a nearby book fair, press releases and interviews with hometown newspapers and radio stations.

Today, a writer's market is global. And blogging is the best way to reach the most number of readers all over the planet.  You can reach more readers with one blogpost than with months of those painfully ill-attended "signings" or those $1000-a-pop book fair booths.

I'm not saying you should go on an expensive blog tour, either. An informal series of guest posts and interviews with other writer-bloggers in your genre can get your book in front of just as many potential readers.

In fact, blogging can be absolutely free. A blog at Blogspot.com or Wordpress.com costs nothing.
Blogging also:
·         makes you visible and gets you into search engines.
·         allows you relate one-on-one with potential readers.
·         connects you with other authors (via groups like IWSG) and publishing professionals.
·         puts YOU in the driver's seat.
·         lets you show off your writing chops
·         gives you a regular writing venue
My blog sure has made all the difference in my own career.
Seven years ago my career was over. My publisher had gone under. My fourth agent had dropped me. My freelancing jobs had dried up.

I was bloodying my knuckles on the doors of agents and publishers, invisible to Google.

So I started a blog. And yeah, nobody read it. But traffic started to pick up after the first year. I started to network with helpful people (some later formed the IWSG.)

Fast forward a few years and miracles happened. 
  • Publishers came to me—I didn't have to query.
  • I shared my blog with one of my idols, Ruth Harris, the NYT million-selling author. 
  • I was invited to write a book with another NYT bestseller, Catherine Ryan Hyde.
  • I was asked to speak at writers' conferences—and magazines and anthologies solicited my work. 
  • High-circulation publications from slick fashion magazines to the American Bar Association Journal contacted me when they wanted an interview, because the first thing that came up in a Google search on various subjects was posts from my blog. 
  • I was invited to contribute to the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016
  • I had 10 books in print and two were on the Amazon humor bestseller list for over a year.
And I'm not the only author who's found blogging the key to career success. Listen to what Nat Russo said after an expensive launch that failed to make any book sales.

"I slashed the number of book ads…and went back to blogging…sales rocketed…they leaped from 3/day to over 70/day, where they’ve remained ever since."
Got that? He stopped buying advertising and went back to blogging. That took him from a negative bottom line to making a nice living from his books.
And not only is a blog free, it doesn't have to take much time. I've never blogged more than once a week. A working fiction writer doesn't need to post as often as the "monetized" blogger. More on this in my blogpost 9 Tips for a Successful Author Blog.

How about you? Do you blog? How has it helped your career?


Anne R. Allen is an author-blogger who writes the hilarious Camilla Randall Mysteries. She's also the author, with Catherine Ryan Hyde of How to be a Writer in the E-Age: A Self-Help Guide. She blogs, with NYT million-seller Ruth Harris at Anne R. Allen's Blog…with Ruth Harris. And her book blog is Anne R. Allen's Books. She's working on a book on the author blog, due out early next year.  

35 comments:

Nicola said...

What an interesting post. I love blogging and have met some incredibly lovely people - especially due to becoming a member at IWSG. Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom. Wishing you continued success and happy blogging.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks again, Anne!

Just Keepin It Real, Folks! said...

Wow such an interesting perspective! Thank you so much for all of these helpful hints. Now I need to rethink some things....

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

It was through blogging that I "met" the many wonderful people that make up the majority of my writing world. Also, without blogging and the support of all those people, I probably wouldn't have had the guts to self-publish not only one but two ebooks/ collections of my flash fiction. :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I've been blogging for over 11 years now and it's connected me with so many people.

Ann Bennett said...

People tend to ignore ads. We get so used to them, we go to scan and rarely look at them. But information or entertainment gets our attention every time. And blogging does that for most people. I've learned a lot from Anne Allen's blog and bought a few books too.

Karen Lange said...

Appreciate your insight and enthusiasm, Anne! I've been blogging for 9 years and it's been a great adventure. The best part - the people I've met. Have a great week! :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Your blog is so helpful and informative. Reading makes me try harder on my own blog and I learn so much. And now you've convinced me it helps sell my books too. Thanks for being here today.

Jemi Fraser said...

Wow - what an awesome post!
I've learned SO much about writing and publishing and marketing from blogging. The network of friends is strong and invaluable.

Pat Hatt said...

Blogging is the best way I've surely found as well. The cat is a crazy nut ball so many flock away. It's fine to do 7 days a week when you are into July of next year too lol

Bish Denham said...

I would never have taken the plunge to self-publish if I hadn't begun blogging. This community is so helpful and giving and kind.

Valerie Capps said...

Great article/blog! I'm finally facing my fear of looking stupid to hundreds of people and testing the waters out here in Blogland. This site for insecure writers sounds like the perfect place for me! Glad I found it. Now if I can only figure out how to link it and add the badge to my blog site....

The Cynical Sailor said...

This is great advice and food for thought about blogging! I particularly like the idea that you're in control of your blog. I also found it reassuring to see you say that blogging is writing. Because I'm in the process of trying to write my first novel, I don't always feel that I can call myself a writer because I'm not at the point of having finished my first manuscript. I've been blogging for three years now and have to remind myself that it's also a form of writing, albeit so much easier and less pressure filled than attempting to write a book. One of the things I'll need to think about at some point is how to leverage my current blog once (if) I get to the point of publishing my first book. Cheers - Ellen

Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks for all these comments, which all go to show the incredible power of networking through blogs. The IWSG is one of the best blog networks in publishing, IMO. Think of how many people you reach with the annual A-Z challenge--and just with this blog. When you comment here, you get name recognition that gets you in search engines and gets your name in front of thousands of eyeballs.

When your books come out, people say. "Oh, I know her! I'll check it out!" much more than they would if they saw an expensive ad from a random stranger.

And Ellen--yes, you're a writer. If you keep up a blog, you are already part of an industry. The person hammering away on a WIP in a lonely room is not anywhere near as close as you are to being a professional writer.

Ann Bennett--You've made a very good point. In a blog, people can be real. A blog is about people communicating one-on-one. An ad is just broadcasting. It's not personal, so it's easy to ignore.

Alex, thanks for inviting me!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Wow! I didn't think that blogging could make that much difference. I know it makes some, considering that I've lowered my posting rate to once a week this year but I didn't realize how much.
I need to check out your post on blogging.

And, congrats on making blogging work!

cleemckenzie said...

I've established a wide network of support through blogging, and I think the people I interact with through my blog are the very best. They're really more like friends I visit with each week, than people who help me sell books. I'm very comfortable exchanging ideas and insecurities with them, and I hope they feel that way about me. Thanks for your post today.

Anne R. Allen said...

Tyrean--Thanks for visiting both my blogs. Yes--blogs are that powerful. And once a week blogging is just right for an author, I think. Twice if you want to post shorter pieces. But I've never posted more than once a week.

Clee--You're using your blog exactly the right way: to make friends. Those friends help you sell and get the word out about your books--and you can help them too. When I almost lost my blog a couple of months ago due to piracy and bad tech advice, somebody pointed out my blog was valued at $24,000, and suggested I sell it. I said "That's like selling my friends. Why would I do that? And nobody would buy it without me writing for it. That's all silly." Because this person was in marketing, he could not understand. He did not get that social media is about people, not dollars on the hoof. This is why blogs sell more books than direct marketing. :-)

Gay Yellen said...

I found your blog, started reading it, saw how smart you are—and generous with your knowledge. Then I bought into the Camilla series and loved it. Thanks for all you do. Write on!

Anne R. Allen said...

Gay--Thanks so much! I'm working hard on Camilla #6. I've just got to that part at around 35,000 words when you go...OMG, maybe I don't have the right villain! Maybe he/she didn't do it! Haha. I've read that Agatha Christie never knew who did it until the end of the book.

Michelle Wallace said...

Anne, thank you for the wonderful post!
It reinforces my belief in the importance/value of blogging!
I always say that if, for some reason, I were forced to keep only ONE of all the social media platforms, it would be my blog. All the knowledge I've gained about the writing/publishing industry, is through blogging and bloggy buddies. Lots of the bloggy buddies are now good friends.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Anne and Alex - couldn't agree more ... and one has an audience built in via blogging friends ... great post and you show how it's worked for you - thank you ... cheers Hilary

Anne R. Allen said...

Michelle--You're absolutely right. FB and Twitter are continually changing. You have no control of your brand there. Only your blog truly represents you. And the networking you can do on your blog is the most valuable asset of all.

Hilary--You're right. Blogging is worthwhile for the audience alone. Thanks!

J.L. Campbell said...

Thanks for sharing this information, Anne. So many of us are sitting on prime real estate or are slacking off (self included) on what gives us free visibility. You've convinced me that I need to do a lot better.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Thanks so much, Anne. You confirmed stuff I already knew but was beginning to doubt. You are so right. We must join a community and let everyone know we're just normal people like everyone else. Happy Writing!

Anne R. Allen said...

J. L. *waves* Hi there! I met you way back when we were both starting out with this blogging thing. Yes, an established blog is prime real estate. We can do a lot with it. We tend to forget that. Do incorporate it into your marketing plan.

Joylene--Part of the problem is that the monetized blog is beginning to lose its luster, and so people say "blogs are over"--but that has nothing to do with author blogs. Author blogs aren't for selling ads or affiliate marketing or conning people into signing up for overpriced courses on how to make a zillion dollars with a blog. They're just for getting to know people.

But hey, saying writers are normal...that might be going too far. Haha! :-)

Lux G. said...

Blogging has indeed worked so much for me. From what started as just a hobby, it is now one of my sources of income. A great place for marketing and increasing your network.

Valerie Capps said...

I'm just now getting started with blogging so I don't know if it will help my career, but I am enjoying reading other writer's posts. Blogs like yours are great! Very interesting, informative and encouraging.

LD Masterson said...

Well, this was well timed. As you now, I've just come back to my blog. But I'm still struggling with what it should be. I like blogging light and funny but how does that connect me with people who read dark murder mysteries and suspense (the stuff I write)? Guess I'll go over and check out those nine tips.

Anne R. Allen said...

Lux--If you're able to monetize an author blog, that's icing on the cake. I don't advise authors to go into blogging with the expectation of making money on affiliate marketing or direct sales from a blog. But congrats if you're able to do it. That's awesome.

Valerie--A blog will always help your writing career because it will make you visible to search engines. That's super important whether you're planning to publish traditionally or go indie. Even if you're just submitting short stories to magazines, the first thing they're going to do is Google you. If you have a blog, you're way ahead of the game.

Liesbet said...

This is a great post and confirms what I have been hearing from other successful writers about the importance of social media and having a presence on other blogs and forums to help with promotion and gain readership. I have a (relatively new) blog, but it is all over the place and not successful (yet). My previous - sailing - blog was more widely read.

Because my first passion is traveling and living an alternative lifestyle (which is easy to write about) and my second one is writing (I'm working on my first memoir, which is a struggle), I do not have the "right" focus for my blog and prefer (against better judgement) to write posts about anything that strikes my fancy. I hope to focus a bit more on just 1 or 2 subjects in the future, which I think might help. And, I do put too much time in blogging and social media stuff, which takes away from my writing time, or better, is a great excuse not to write in my book! :-)

Liesbet @ Roaming About

Anne R. Allen said...

Leisbet--If you still have your sailing blog, don't abandon it. You can link it to your author blog, and you could even combine them. You can convert one kind of blog to another because you can change everything but the url. The longer a blog has been around, the higher it ranks in search engines.

Sailing can still be part of your author blog. What you want on your author blog is anything that makes you interesting as a person. Anything you'd put in an author bio, or that you'd mention in an interview can go in the blog, so recipes for your award winning chili or stories about your wilderness trek with your three pet wombats--all good fodder for the blog. You don't have to limit yourself.

But you're right. Don't let the blog become your writer's block enabler. The WIP has to come first.

Anne R. Allen said...

LD--I think you can combine light and funny with mysteries. I'm having a blast with my 'Poisoning People for Fun and Profit' blog series which is pretty funny and irreverent, but it is about murder. Stephen King plays in a silly rock band, the Rock Bottom Remainders even though he kind of defines dark writing. So be yourself. That's what an author blog is about. Letting people get to know you.

Jessica Ferguson said...

Great post! Love your suggestions. I don't think it hurts to become a celebrity in your home town by doing the bookstore signings, book fairs, press releases and interviews with hometown newspapers and radio stations. It's always fun to get friends, family and neighbors involved in these type things, and good to mingle with and get to know your readers. Sometimes it takes quite a while to get dedicated blog readers.

Thanks for sharing. Fantastic info.

Debbie said...

As always, this is more good advice from you Anne. I've been blogging for some years now and I really enjoy it. One of the things I really like about blogging is the fact that we get to control our own blogs - both the content and how it looks. Our blogs can tell readers a lot about us and it can help build a great community. I look forward to reading your new book. :)

Anne R. Allen said...

Jessica--Those things are fun and they can really give you an ego boost. But they tend to be expensive (especially the launch parties and book signings) and don't do much for your bottom line. I figure I can move twice as many books with one guest blogpost, which costs nothing, than with a book signing that costs $250+ plus a lot of time. But if those things are also providing you with needed validation and social interaction, then the bottom line doesn't matter. A lot of beginning self-publishers are still thinking in terms of print books, which are generally only about 5% of a self-publisher's income these days.

Debbie--I think control is the #1 reason I prefer blogging to any other social media. You are in charge of your own brand. Thanks! I'm having fun with the new book!