Author Blogging 101: 11 Reasons Your Blog Isn’t Working

by Joel Friedlander on October 25, 2011 · 31 comments

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All too often I hear from writers that they’ve taken everyone’s advice, gotten their writing muscles limbered up and started a blog. But now they’re stuck.

“That’s what everyone says you should do,” the dispirited author will tell me. “Well, I did it and it didn’t work for me. Maybe it works if you’re writing about brake linings or losing weight, but it won’t work for me because I’m writing about …” whatever it is they are writing about.

Of course, I feel sorry for these writers. It’s no fun to get excited about all the marketing and relationship-building power of a blog, and then to not have any readers. You have to watch while other bloggers post articles that get circulated, commented on, Tweeted and shared. Maybe they thought it was all going to happen in a week or two.

Or at least in the first month, right?

Blogging is Building a Media Asset

No, sad to say, like most everything else, a blog is something that can have powerful effects on you, your business, your book sales or whatever it is you’re blogging about. But it’s not going to happen in a week.

And even if you’re a great novelist or experienced nonfiction author, you still have to learn this odd form of writing, or media, or whatever it is. Blogging has its own conventions and it really helps if you learn them.

One of the biggest lessons I learned a few months ago when I was converting dozens of blog posts into a book (A Self-Publisher’s Companion) was just how different a blog post is from a chapter or a section of a book. Very different.

Likewise, succeeding at blogging isn’t like succeeding as an author, or as a magazine article writer, or as a speaker or an expert on a topic. There are specific writing, marketing and technical things you have to learn to really make your blog fly.

11 Reasons to Get Better at Blogging

But there are reasons blogs stumble along when they could fare much better, and some of those reasons trace back to the blogger herself. Sometimes we search for a subject, and use that journey as the subject of our blogging.

Or we experiment with different voices. Or we just get too busy for a while. Hey, life happens.

But when you come to the place where you want your blog to do more for you, when you’re ready to make a commitment instead of living on guilty thoughts, then it’s time to take action.

Here are the places to look if you want to know why your blog isn’t working.

  1. Your articles are always the same. It’s easy to fall into a rut when you’re not getting the response you’d like. Varying formats is a great way to attract and keep an audience.
  2. What you are writing isn’t interesting. Learning to think from the reader’s point of view is the secret to effective blogging.
  3. Nobody knows about your blog. Many bloggers haven’t realized just how powerful and easy blog marketing can be.
  4. Your posts show up at odd intervals. No one knows when the next post is coming, then there’s a rush of activity, then nothing. There are easy solutions to this problem.
  5. You don’t have an email signup. You keep meaning to get to it. But if you realized how powerful it is, you would do it today.
  6. You don’t emphasize engagement. Can people subscribe? Is there something besides your latest article on your blog? Is there a payoff for readers who want more?
  7. You don’t enter the conversation. When readers make comments, they are opening a conversation with you. That’s a big payoff, so if you don’t answer them they may decide you don’t really care what they think.
  8. You don’t format for readability. Large masses of gray type with no break just aren’t that inviting to read online.
  9. You don’t write great headlines. I know I look for interesting headlines and then read the articles that seem most appealing. If you have boring headlines, you’re eliminating readers before they even get started.
  10. You don’t have a “hook.” Writing in an academic or corporate style will kill your blog pretty quickly. Try to see it more like a magazine or newspaper, where a “hook” that’s surprising or interesting draws readers in.
  11. Your posts confuse your branding. If the subject of your posts changes from day to day or week to week, readers don’t know what to expect. But you can use your blog to establish a powerful brand.

Here’s the good news. I’m going to explore each of these areas in separate blog posts, one at a time. In essence, we’ll accumulate a short course in blogging for authors, so come along for the ride.

Let’s call it Author Blogging 101

Photo by CarbonNYC

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    { 29 comments… read them below or add one }

    katina vaselopulos November 23, 2012 at 5:32 am

    Very enlightening!
    Just posted my first blog on gratitude at http://journeyswithkatina.com/2012/11/21/grateful-for/

    Could not stop writing! Too long, I think. Looking forward to learning from your knowledge and wisdom!
    Thank you!

    Reply

    Bev Benyamin December 14, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Well, you hooked me in, now where’s the meat? I still haven’t learned how to get my blog out there. Sincerely, That’s Life, Might As Well Laugh About It at bev-benyamin.blogspot.com. (Come on, you gotta love my great idea here to spread my blog title, thanks!)

    Reply

    Mogo~Spok-Spok~Slogo November 16, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    To add: Your BLOGS are mini-books…if yo’ blog is boring, then yo’ book is probably boring, then yo’ life is probably boring,….people READ cuz dey is bored; people who skydive, scuba dive, spend weeks in foreign primitive cultures with cannibals smoking cannabis, carrying HK’s, eating bugs; then in Beijing at a 5* Hotel the next week…don’t read books….topless fashion models in string bikinis read books to them..(At least that’s how I do it)…GENERATE some ENERGY or stay at Wal-Mart….Love Joe..

    Reply

    Tim Mushey November 10, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    Just a great list Joel! I found myself going through all 11 and saying “yep, makes sense, need to do that, and that..” But I think the key for everyone to realize is actually follow through and follow these fantastic tips. Your blog has to flourish, there is no other option! Thanks again.

    Reply

    PW November 7, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Great post, and timely (for me). I started a blog but have no idea what to expect, or how to manage it. I look forward to more author blogging posts.

    Reply

    James October 26, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Joel, a blog can serve many purposes for a writer. Making money or marketing are only two of them. I get your angle–using blogs to market and promote yourself–but a significant number of writers use blogs primarily to sharing their work and ideas. In fact, the blogs I like best are those kinds.

    And, those are often some of the most successful. The whole strategize-SEO-Twitter-obsessive optimization of blog writing is a valid one–but it’s not the only (or really, even most popular) use of blogs by writers.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 26, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Hi James, good point. There are many many reasons people start blogs. Of course I have no way of measuring what’s the most popular use of blogs. How would you measure that?

    These articles are aimed at the dozens of writers I hear from who, no matter how they started out blogging, now realize that it’s readers that make their blogs worth writing.

    However you interpret taking these simple steps—and there’s no mention of Twitter, obsession or SEO in the list above—they are designed to bring more readers to your blog and to make the activity of blogging iteself more enjoyable.

    But sure, if you really don’t care whether anyone is reading, there’s no point in trying to make your blog more engaging or more interesting. But then you probably wouldn’t be reading this article anyway.

    Thanks for extending the conversation.

    Reply

    James October 26, 2011 at 11:44 am

    I didn’t say those “other writers” don’t care if anyone’s reading. They may care a great deal, and yet not be trying to use the blog within the narrow parameters your article defines (e.g., “blogging is building a media asset”).

    Often, I talk to writers who find it freeing to not try strategizing about “blogging” as a thinly veiled marketing tool, and just write and share. I’m all for making a living, but defining a blog as primarily a business device is limiting to me.

    Reply

    Marcie October 25, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    I’m going with #3 for my site. I know I need to do more. I have a consistent schedule but I don’t promote much. I’ve got to do better.

    Reply

    Marcia Richards October 25, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    I love your welcome video! I need to begin experimenting with that. I have had failed blogs in the past. My current blog is seeing some success because I have followed the advice given by you and others who have found success. I just don’t feel it’s growing as fast as it should. I provide topics that relate to my writing in a couple of ways and I have a day that is just fun. I began in January, but started being consistent with content and frequency in May, so I consider it 6 months old. In the last four months my subscriptions jumped (<100) as did my page views (80-175 daily), but still small numbers. I use social media, though I have to get better at using it to it's potential. I resond to every comment, provide useful and/or entertaining info, I'm consistent, encourage readers to sign up. I feel like I'm doing all the right things, but it's growing as slow as molasses. Any advice?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 25, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Marcia, at 6 months I was getting between 180 and 400 visits a day, but keep in mind I am posting 7 days a week. The thing is to keep at it and keep marketing your blog. I’ll be getting into the marketing part as we go along. I’ve now been at it 2 years and continue to grow my traffic which, on some days, is ten times the low figure from 1.5 years ago. Just keep going, it will work out.

    Reply

    Julia Rachel Barrett October 25, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Great article. I do have a pet peeve when it comes to bloggers. When a reader takes the time and makes the effort to leave me a comment, I always respond – unless I’m out of town and don’t have internet available. It’s very important to me to make my readers feel welcome because they are welcome. You’re right, a comment is a conversation. This is why I blog – to converse with readers.
    With a single exception – a blogger who always posts something valuable but has turned off her comment function – I will stop following bloggers who throw words about but never respond to comments. I feel as if I’m talking in a vacuum. It’s unpleasant.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 25, 2011 at 10:40 am

    I don’t question other people’s way of doing things, but I feel really different reading a blog that has comments turned off. In a sense, those blogs are not really part of the social media landscape, since there’s no interactivity available. They are more like article posting sites, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it’s not for me.

    Reply

    James October 26, 2011 at 11:48 am

    One of my favorite things about Seth Godin’s blog is the lack of comments. Here’s another example of a blog being used in a creative way to deliver the author’s message.

    Anybody here read Seth Godin?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 26, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    I read Seth’s blog and recommend it, but’s it’s a really bad model for an author just starting out, in my opinion.

    Here’s a bit from Seth’s blog today:

    Authors of the future are small enterprises, just one person or perhaps two or three. But they include fan engagement specialists, licensors, new media development managers, public speakers, endorsement and bizdev VPs, and more.

    No one has your back.

    Sad but true. The author of today (and tomorrow) is either going to build and maintain and work with his tribe or someone is going to take it away.

    Reply

    Betsy Gordon October 25, 2011 at 8:59 am

    Oh, sorry, I forgot to mention: Number 7 is what snared me into becoming one of your subscribers. I was so impressed that you answered Every Single Comment, calling the person by name, even if it wasn’t a particularly meaty remark. Thanks for entering the conversation, Joel.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 25, 2011 at 10:38 am

    The kind of conversations we’ve been able to have, Betsy, that span different articles, subjects and over time, are part of the best rewards I get from blogging. As far as my workload, I can only say that I’ve eliminated a lot of unnecessary stuff from my days, and it’s been a blessing. When you have a lot to give, you only look for opportunities to continue to make a difference for people. At least that’s what drives me.

    Reply

    Jennie November 3, 2011 at 6:11 am

    Joel, How do I set up an e-mail subscriber list on my blog??

    Reply

    Betsy Gordon October 25, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Wow, Joel, where do you get the energy to do yet ANOTHER course, when you’re in the midst of the excellent Self-Publishing Roadmap? I am looking forward to the Blogging course too, as I think that’s going to be my next personal project after NaNoWriMo. I seem to reinvent myself every five years or so, and I feel another reinvention coming on. Thanks for helping and inspiring!

    Reply

    Robert Francis October 25, 2011 at 8:31 am

    Joel, thanks for the post. I too appreciate the timing, having taken up blogging relatively recently.

    It’s a fascinating form — but very unique. And even though I’ve been reading blogs for years, now that I’m writing one, I’m discovering that there’s so much more to it than meets the eye.

    I’m intrigued to hear more of your advice on each of these points — they were great teasers!

    Looking forward to the course.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 25, 2011 at 10:34 am

    As you know, Robert, I’ve been following your blog since you got started, and you seem to be finding your way quite well. As a grizzled veteran of 2 years in the blogosphere, I hope I can pass along some of the things that have worked for me.

    Reply

    betty ming liu October 25, 2011 at 4:18 am

    such a good post, joel. you’re right — blogging is a long haul commitment. i’ve had my ups and downs, as you know. but after starting three years ago, things have finally clicked in the last 18 months. there’s constant refining to do but getting a groove on is possible. of course, your input is essential to the process!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 25, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Betty, your blog has been an example for me, too. You are adept at finding the intersection between what your readers respond to and what you are passionate about. Today’s post was a model of concision—you practice what you preach.

    Reply

    sharon k owen October 25, 2011 at 4:06 am

    Joel, thanks for this post. I’m working so hard on getting my platform built and sometimes (okay often) feel totally inept. Your suggestions are great. Look forward to reading more.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 25, 2011 at 10:31 am

    One of the things I liked the most when I got started blogging was that I didn’t have to do everything at once. Getting each part down gives you the energy and enthusiasm to keep going, so watch for more.

    Reply

    Gibson Goff October 25, 2011 at 4:05 am

    So far your hook is working! Concise, meaty, great information in this post; I’m looking forward to you filling in the blanks in your upcoming posts.

    Glad I’m a subscriber!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 25, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Fantastic, Gibson, I think you’re going to like it. There’s a lot of “bhind the scenes” kind of stuff that doesn’t get talked about all that often but it can really make a difference.

    Reply

    carol brill October 25, 2011 at 3:55 am

    Joel, great timing, just started a blog and I’m eager to ride along with 101. as someone who is somewhat novice at following blogs, I agree from personal experience how engaging it is when the author responds to my comment. It pulls me in and makes me feel my comment is appreciated.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 25, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Thanks Carol, glad I can be there at the right time. This is really an evergreen topic, since people are starting blogs all the time and blogging continues to evolve. Stay tuned and thanks for reading.

    Reply

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