Writers, Promotion and Blogs

I don’t normally discuss promotion and marketing. Partly because I’m not terribly interested, but mostly because I think intense focus on marketing and promotion can be dangerous for some writers, stripping away their self-confidence and interfering with their ability to write.

All things in moderation, right folks?

That said, I’m going to talk about promotion anyway, because I’ve been involved in a most interesting project these past few weeks. Writer Katherine O’Neal is self-publishing her back list. Up until now she hasn’t had much of an internet presence. I’m helping her establish one. We all know, to push ebooks, some promotion is necessary. How much? And exactly what? Well, those truly are the questions, aren’t they? Katherine and I have been having lots of discussions on the subject, and I think some points we’ve brought up are worthy of discussion with you.

But first, a bit of promotion. For those who don’t know, the lovely Plunder Bunny is my partner in book production. I handle the digital side, she does the print layout. She’s also an artist with digital graphics. Check this out…

background2So if any of you need a little magic with a lot of color, you can contact PB.

Back to our regularly scheduled program…

Blogs. What I’ve mostly been doing is helping Katherine set up a blog (and no, do not contact me for help in setting up a blog–this is a one-shot thing and I’m only doing it because Katherine and I are having a blast, like a couple of kids in a sandbox dazzling each other with our creations. It’s still under construction, but you can take a peek if you want.). Why a blog?

That is the most important question of all. I think far too many writers have unrealistic expectations about what a blog or website can do for them. They think, I’ll put up a blog and people will come and I’m all set promotion wise. I also see a lot–a lot!–of writer blogs that all do the same thing. Writers blog about their writing, but make zero effort to offer value to readers, so it’s just blah blah my writing blah blah more about my writing and ME ME ME, and that’s boring as hell. The only difference between them and a bore who corners a victim at a party is that in the case of the blogs, escape is just a mouse click away.

Nobody visits a blog, or subscribes, because they have to. They do so because a) It’s entertaining; b) It’s informative; or c) It’s educational. Sometimes it’s all three. Truly successful blogs have a theme, a focus, and a reason for existence beyond the fact that the writer wants to sell books. There’s a lot–a lot!–of competition for eyeballs, too. Millions of blogs. Ask yourself, how many do you subscribe to? How many do you regularly visit? How many satisfy some personal need of yours? I bet the number is fairly low.

I think writers need to dig a little deeper than merely deciding if they want to be entertaining, informative and/or educational. Some soul-searching and self-honesty are essential.

  • Blogs take time and energy. How much time and energy are you willing to take away from your writing?
  • Blogs require maintenance. Writing one post and then sitting back to await a flood of visitors will not work. Establish a schedule up front. Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Readers get used to a pattern. Your blog could be one of their habits if you post on a regular schedule.
  • How much interaction do you want? How much can you stand? It’s work keeping up with the comments. You have to know your own comfort levels. A blog is a public thing, which makes you a public figure. Fans are a delight, but they can also be demanding, or even dangerous.
  • How public do you want to be? I think some writer-bloggers get themselves into trouble when they get too personal and reveal too much of themselves. Words have consequences, and it’s easy to forget that the internet makes words last forever. Set your boundaries and establish lines you will not cross. There are those who thrive on controversy, those who are comfortable walking around in their underwear in public, so to speak. If you’re not one of them, be careful.
  • Finally, the most important question of all: Do you want to blog? A blog is only one avenue of book promotion. Don’t feel compelled just because everybody else is. I’m a big proponent of “Try it, you might like it,” but if you do try and find you hate it, for Pete’s sake, stop. It’s not worth the anxiety and resentment you’ll end up feeling.

What about the rest of you? Do ever do any soul searching about your blogging? Any important questions you asked yourself?


30 thoughts on “Writers, Promotion and Blogs

  1. I like my blog and I’m still trying to find the right balance between promotion and simply being interesting. I do 2 pieces of fiction a week and they update regularly, if not quite like clockwork (almost forgot to upload today’s post!). I used to do a fitness/creativity and goal setting thing on Mondays but we’ve had a lot of drama and trauma this past year and my heart just wasn’t in it. I’m thinking I’ll get back to it soon, though, because it was one of my more popular features.

    All that said, I actually really love Twitter. But I hate Twitter spam. I just like reading quick, witty bites from people.

    • Hi Kort, sounds like you know what you want. Which is smart.
      I’m with you on Twitter. I enjoy the wit and the links to interesting articles. Hate the spamming.

  2. Well, you know me. Been blogging religiously for 5 years because I love doing it and I love the people I’ve met via blogging. However when life intervenes and I’m super busy, blogging takes up all my time, leaving zero time to write. I have bunches of stories waiting in the wings and I’m unable to get to them. I’m not one of those people who can blog once a month and feel any sort of satisfaction. It’s every day or nada. So I do plan to come up with another plan
    Blogs that do not work – the me-me-me blogs. The how you too can make a million dollars self-pubbing because I did it blogs. The I’m gonna teach you newbs how to write because even though I’ve only written one book and have yet to be published I know better than you blogs. The bloggers who only discuss their own books ad nauseam blogs. Boooring!
    Blogs that do work – interesting personal blogs. Food blogs. Informative blogs like yours.

    • Smart decision, Julia. It’s like the saying, “Take care of yourself first, that way you have the strength to take care of others.” And, for sure, you’ll be welcomed all over the ‘net as a guest blogger. Whenever you get the urge…

    • Your blog was one of the few personal blogs I read regularly. I’m pretty antisocial and generally don’t care what people made for dinner, etc. However, you write about your life in a really entertaining way. Also, the ghost story was the most awesome series of blog posts, ever.

      • Thank you sweetie! Your words mean a lot. I’ll still blog, but it will be different.

  3. I debated a long time before starting my blog. I didn’t want it to be all about me. I wanted it to be a service to my readers. So, in the end, I decided to review how-to books for writers. I admire people who can make a personal blog that’s both interesting and entertaining. It’s quite an accomplishment! But since I’m not that person, I’ll just continue with my review blog.

    • I enjoy your blog. It’s an interesting focus. And you are right, the personal blog that is interesting and entertaining is a rarity. Takes a special talent to keep it from devolving into a ME ME ME yawner.

  4. Blogging has been a blast.

    Soul searching: Why blog? Because I can’t publish right now, the blogging is my personal online magazine. It’s free – and no one HAS to read it.

    It accepts all my output (what I deem fit to print – a lot of stuff doesn’t make that very low bar), and provides me a place to put up my fiction for free.

    I’m letting it grow organically. No pushing for traffic. But since publication is Sep. 2014, at the earliest, I have time.

    I tried blogging daily – got a bit more traffic – but the stress it not for me. I get a bunch of followers, and just enough comments that I can handle it comfortably.

    I have settled in, more or less: two posts a week, one announcing the latest bit in the novel-in-progress (every Tuesday), the other on something that interests me, and might interest other people.

    I’ve settled into a short list of topics/categories. I don’t have to go for the ‘Gen. musings’ category very much any more (just went over 9 months and 100+ posts). My writing process seems to be quite different from what I’ve seen on other blogs, so sometimes I’m writing as much to clarify things for myself as for others. I may be adding useful ‘content’ to the web.

    Soul searching: Is it worth the time and effort it takes? Yes. My ‘online magazine’ is working for me.

    Most Important Question: am I attracting my tribe? If yes, my tribe is tiny. So most likely, not yet. But there’s no point in having a tribe until you are ready to feed it – and not all my potential readers (not many?) (only 3?) are willing to read my fiction when it isn’t finished. I will be finished writing and polishing before I reach my goal of posting a scene every Tuesday until ‘The End’ – that gap is the time to go looking for ‘my’ readers.

    PS I love YOUR blog – all that yummy information, taken much to heart. Thanks.

  5. Writers should blog only when they can’t not blog. If there’s no inner compulsion, your time is almost always better spent doing something else. I think the key to a successful online presence isn’t promotion, but community contribution. People like to support folks who are part of their “tribe”. When you blog, you are taking on the challenge of creating the community and that is pretty damn hard. Most writers would be better served by members of communities of interest that already exist, i.e. by being a blog commenter. Every blogger appreciates a good commenter. The other community members appreciate it, too. I find it much easier to be commenter than a blogger. I’ve never been able to maintain a blog, but all of the communities that I’ve been part of have appreciated my contributions. The great thing about being a commenter is that you aren’t limited to one blog.

    Here are my secrets to being a good blog commenter.

    1. Commit – find a blog on a topic you enjoy talking about and stick with it.
    2. Contribute – people value your comments when they add to the conversation.
    3. Respect – the blogger(s) rules, written or unwritten (which includes hanging out before you jump into the fray).
    4. Respond – to the posts, don’t derail the conversation. You’re not there to hawk your books.
    5. Relax – you are now among friends. If you screw up, just apologize, and move on.

    The whole idea is to have fun while creating value for other people.

    [By the way, I have a completely different approach to blogs where I am a confrontational commenter. I don’t recommend that for writers.]

    • I love this! I hadn’t even considered “blog commentor” as an activity complete unto itself. But you’re so right. Great comments are often more interesting than the article that sparked them. (and I get my best topic ideas from the comments, too)

  6. My blog’s been a little fallow as I farm out, writing food reviews for one site, essays for another. I don’t want it to be a link farm, so I try to put unique content on the blog. And I’ll try harder. I don’t go for the “blog every day” stuff unless you have something worthy of discussion. I was trying to write interviews once a week, but it’s a lot of work to do well, and I don’t pluck around.

  7. I do not journal myself, per se. Oh, I drop the sporadic comment now and then on FaceBook, but nothing with any regularity. And, perhaps, that’s why I’ve only sold two copies of my e-book in two months’ time — one through each of the sale venues.

    But, when it comes to a regular journal — I simple cannot get myself to use the “b” word — I balk. I don’t feel inspired, as you seem to, Jaye, to post comments on a regular basis about any topic, let alone constantly plugging my writing. I suspect it’s a self-doubt issue, as I can’t imagine many folks finding my comments interesting enough to come back and read a second helping of what passes for wit and quality comments in my mind.

    I think William’s spot on — one writes because one cannot not write, so one journals because one cannot not journal. I, however, can easily not journal… and there was much rejoicing! 😉

    • I have a theory about book promotion and marketing. My theory is, there are two distinct types. One is passive promotion and the other is active promotion. I think active promotion is necessary for non-fiction, and I think it’s a double-edged sword for fiction that might actually do more harm than good (especially if it makes the writer insane and hampers their ability to write). Passive promotion, on the other hand, is a necessity for all types of books. In the long run, it’s effective and causes a writer less stress. It’s all about getting your name out where people can see it. That’s where blogging can help and tweeting and facebooking and pinteresting and commenting on blogs and all the other social media stuff and nonsense. Not by hawking individual books, but by being interesting.

      Or one can just keep writing books and getting them out there until the fan base grows.

  8. As you know, not being a writer, and only a part time blogger, I just tend to open my gob, metaphorically speaking of course and let it just hit the page regardless. It has got me in a bit of trouble on more than one occasion from Essex Police but they were nice when asking me not to call the Chief Constable rude names and posting it on their face book page too and not to take it too much to heart that they removed it. And then there is Tesco of course. I tried this last week when I was in there I pulled up yours, Julias’s and Penny’s blogs on the on sale demo laptops, but mine is blocked I think it is because I keep calling them arse holes

    Do you have any sound advice, or should I just stop being a TIT xxxxx

    • I found one problem. Legit comments are ending up in the spam box. I’ve been getting so much spam here of late, I’ve been doing a bulk empty. If any legit comments got caught in that, I apologize. I’ll go through the spam more carefully and see if I can sort out the real comments from those trying to sell me time shares and penis enlargers.

  9. Oh and before I forget can you sort out Missy Barrett for me please. When I open your blog on my ipad I still get the re-tweet button but when I open Missy’s on the ipad it isn’t there, I am sure I have mentioned this to her before, BUT SHE IS IGNORING ME….. You know I love you both equally and Penny too but I think Julia is as thick as me on the technical side and you are so much better at all these things

  10. Thank you for this post. I wish I’d read it before I created Lessons by Heart in 2009. The reason it was birthed was – yep – to promote a book I’d written. Most posts were updates on the process. I had one follower – a friend who wanted to support my endeavors. I hazarded a single personal blog – and promptly picked up a stranger who was obviously spoiling for a fight. “I don’t need this,” I thought, and quit visiting my blog.
    (I did not sell a single copy of my book through LBH, either…the main purpose for creating the blog to begin with!)

    Fast-forward four years. Did my blog still exist? Did I want to risk again? I’d been writing in the meantime and had no outlet for the articles. Why not give it a shot?

    Surprised to see Lessons sitting idle…a whopping 426 views in my absence…I began posting. This time was different, though. The focus was no longer me, me ME! I began to reach out to other, follow their blogs, comment, and so forth. In three and a half short months, the blog has been read in 50 countries, had over 8,000 views, and has around 400 followers. (As a bonus, I’ve sold two copies of my book…but it’s not highly visible on my blog – and only available as a hard copy, so I’m not surprised.)

    If you decide to blog, you have to be interested in others out in “Blogtopia” or it will mostly be a source of frustration to you. People don’t care about what you know until they know that you care.

    Praise Jesus!

  11. So, what’s goin on left comments earlier and they haven’t appeared so trying again, you haven’t done a tesco on me and are blocking me….

    The reason I ask is that if I remember what I said earlier was that not being a writer I don’t worry too much about what I say as I just open my gob, metaphorically speaking and let it all hang out which on a couple of occasions has got me into trouble, particularly with Essex Police who would prefer me not to have called their Ex Chief Constable (police chief) a rude name and then post the blog on their page. They were very nice about it really telling me they were removing it and to desist.

    And then of course there is Tesco when I was in there recently I tested a couple of the sale laptops and managed to bring up yours, Julia and Penny’s blogs but mine appears to be blocked I suspect because I keep calling them arse holes, surely that’s no reason to block me, any advice I should take from this …..

    Oh the second point was, you know I love you all dearly but clearly Missy Julia is as dumb as me on the technical side and when I open your blog and Penny’s blog and anyone else’s blog on my iPad I still get the links and reshare buttons for twitter etc, but not on Jules. I have mentioned this before but she is clearly bright beautiful and smart, but you are smarter technologically speaking, sort out her new site for her please


  12. I’m back but was it worth it, I will look at min agin tomorrow, but it really does look fine. Allow anyone to comment, even anonymous and don’t moderate comments, I am at a loss my sweet

  13. My blogging approach has been scattershot. Reviews, interesting (to me) things I’ve seen and done,random thoughts, writing and publishing topics, and occasionally something about my own writing or myself. (Actually, I’m terribly uncomfortable promoting my writing, and don’t like talking about myself (unless making fun of me).) I know I need some sort of focus. But what? I’ve been on hiatus, trying to figure this out, but I think I’m all out of focus.

    • There are so many options for an internet presence, Marie, that it’s probably best to seek the best fit for you rather than trying to force yourself to fit. A blog/website can be a perfectly destination site for readers and potential readers. They see you on facebook (for instance), are charmed by what you have to say, so they pop over to your blog for information about your books. That way, the only thing you have to do (blog wise) is keep it updated.

  14. You said a mouthful, sister! I’ve been rethinking my blog lately which made this post very relevant for me. I’ve found that a blog is both a blessing and a curse. Google LOVES “new shiny stuff” and so a regularly maintained blog can be a great way to be discovered. BUT it does take you away from your writing which, for someone like me who has to be super-disciplined when it comes to time management in the first place, can be a short track to Resentmentland. I think you have to give it all a go – website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, – and see what sticks to the wall. Personally, I’ve found Facebook to be God’s gift and Twitter to be a pain, and my blog to be a useful way to update people on my latest developments. But it takes a while to figure all that out but until you do, nobody is likely to find you.

    • You make a good point, Martin. Every writer ought to occasionally do the psychic equivalent of a Profit & Loss statement. How much are you putting in, how much are your getting out of it. An internet presence is necessary, but the internet is so vast and writers are so creative, there is no sense getting stuck in a rut or wasting time doing something unprofitable. I’m a big proponent of “Try it, it might work,” and I think people benefit from trying new things and giving them time to develop. At the same time, I rarely advocate for lost causes.

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