A few days ago Dan shared some of his insights for gaining an audience via Twitter. Twitter is an excellent tool and can be harnessed to participate in that particular community to build an audience, but you can also use a more familiar and pervasive method: blogging. In addition to drawing an audience, blogging can be a great way to build your brand online.
Blogs are certainly nothing new. They started to gain traction around 2003-2004, and have been increasing in popularity ever since. Corporations, marketing professionals, journalists, and writers of all stripes use them on a daily basis as a marketing tool, so why shouldn’t you? Blogs can be one of the most effect methods of creating an audience, and can help get the word out about the book you’ve spent the past several months, or even years, working on.
Find a blog provider. WordPress and Blogger are the two most popular blog providers, and they are both free to use. There are also other communities out there that enable blogs, such as Vox and LiveJournal. If you aren’t sure of which you should use, try them all out and see which one best suits you.
Find a theme or topic and stick to it. You want to stay focused on a specific topic, so your readers know what to expect. If you write about science fiction, try keeping most of your posts related to science fiction topics. This helps to create a loyal fan base.
Reach out to everyone you know. You have to start somewhere, and people you know are going to be the most receptive to reading what you’re writing about. If you write about interesting topics they will forward it to their friends, and hopefully the chain will continue. You can also do things like put your blog URL in your email signature. If you’re a part of a social networking site like Facebook or MySpace, post announcements about your blog.
Think about your readers. Ask yourself: “Why would anyone want to read my blog?”. If you can’t answer that question, then you may need to find a new theme or collection of topics. Although your friends and family may be regular visitors to keep tabs on you, casual visitors are only going to be loyal readers if you write about something they care about.
Establish a writing routine. The best way to ensure your readers come back is to set the expectation that your blog will frequently have new content. Additionally, blogs that are more frequently updated rank higher in Google searches.
Reach out to other bloggers in your area of focus. The number one way new readers will find your blog is via links on other blogs, so establish relationships with other bloggers. Leave comments on articles you find interesting. If you write on a topic that another blogger covered recently, provide a link to their article. You can also branch out by creating a blogroll that has links to other blog owners. It is important to note that you want to do this after you have a few quality posts under your belt. You want people to link back to you, and they aren’t going to if your blog is lacking content.
Promote your book on your blog. This may sound painfully obvious, but this is the most crucial part. Scott McKenzie, author of the horror novel Rebirth, uses the Lulu ‘Buy Now’ buttons directly on the front page of his blog. Lulu also provides a Mini-Storefront (a flash widget) so you can enable all of your published works to be embedded on your blog or social networking page (MySpace, Facebook, etc.).
Create podcasts. Mur Lafferty is well known both in blogging circles and in the self-publishing world, for good reason. In addition to putting her work out for free in PDF form, she also creates audio podcasts of her creative works before it is available in print form. By allowing her readers to get interested in the story before it goes to print, there is an immediate buzz and interest on the release date which results in more sales. If you’re not sure where to begin, Podcast Free America is a good place to start.
Set up a Feedburner account. You want to create loyal readers, and readers become loyal by subscribing to your blog via a feed reader such as Netvibes or iGoogle. By using Feedburner, you can track how many people are subscribing to your blog. Read more about utilizing Feedburner for your blog.
Tying It All Together
Create connections to and from your blog with the other places you have a presence online. Your Lulu Storefront enables you to import RSS feeds. By importing the one from your blog, visitors to your storefront can see new and fresh content. Additionally, link to your blog from your book description on Lulu, and perhaps printed in the book itself. You want your readers to become repeat customers, so keep them interested in what you are working on next.
Becoming a successful author doesn’t happen in a week, and neither will building a popular blog. Just stick with it and continue writing. If you create content on your blog that makes people want to continue coming back, you can transform these readers into readers of your book. Readers are much more likely to buy your book when they know you and have a connection with your writing.