What Offer Does Your Author Blog Make?

by Joel Friedlander on August 13, 2012 · 29 comments

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It seems that authors fall into two categories when it comes to author blogging:

  1. Authors who are blogging regularly
  2. Authors who think they should be blogging regularly

If you read blogs you come to the conclusion that there are lots of reasons authors are blogging. But sometimes I wonder whether authors have thought about the reason they are blogging—why their blog exists.

Now, admittedly there are lots of kinds of author blogs.

There’s a big divide between fiction authors who blog and nonfiction authors. And within nonfiction, there’s a big difference between the kind of blog you can develop if you write literary criticism or medieval history, or if you write about how to get rid of the weeds in your garden or how to make great vegan dishes.

So every author is different, and our subjects and audiences are infinitely varied.

But having some clarity about what purpose your blog serves can really help you achieve your goals. Even better, being able to sum it up in just a few words—why readers would bother to stop there and read it—is one of the best early exercises for new bloggers.

The Magic of the Tagline

When you decide to start a blog, you have to right away come up with a name for it. Or you can blog under your own name, on the “domain-name-of-your-author-name” plan.

No matter what domain name you end up with, you’ll notice that most blogs have a tagline, a bit like a book’s subtitle.

For instance, here are some taglines from blogs I visit:

  • The Creative Penn: Helping you write, publish and market your book
  • The Passive Voice: Writers, Writing, Publishing, Disruptive Innovation and the Universe
  • Writer Unboxed: about the craft and business of fiction
  • Copyblogger: Content Marketing Solutions for WordPress that Work
  • Social Media Examiner: Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle
  • We Grow Media: Helping Writers & Publishers Make an Impact and Build Their Legacies

In each case, the blogger has tried to sum up the value of the blog to the reader.

Creating the Tagline for Your Blog

Doing this exercise was a lot more difficult for me than I thought it would be. I already had the name of the blog—thebookdesigner.com—so that wasn’t a problem.

But it took several hours and a lot of thought before I arrived at the tagline. But going through that work was also very valuable, and I recommend this exercise to every author who is setting up, or reviving, a blog.

You can see my own end result in the masthead: practical advice to help build better books.

And no matter how far afield the articles here have wandered, this statement hasn’t changed, because my offer has never changed.

If you think about it, how well you fulfill the promise of this statement will have a lot to do with the success of your blog. And if it does succeed, it can become a vehicle capable of supporting your writing and publishing efforts, the ultimate foundation of your author platform.

We blog at the permission of our readers, and the exercise of creating a tagline for your blog is one of the best ways to focus on exactly what your offer is to your readers.

And it gives you the chance to see how well you’re fulfilling that offer.

What offer do you make to your readers through your blog? Have you thought about that?

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    { 21 comments… read them below or add one }

    Steve Vernon August 13, 2012 at 4:34 am

    That’s an awfully good question, Joel.

    When I first began my blog I decided to aim towards writers. Why not? I spoke their language, with only the slightest of accents. I understood their needs and wants. I figured it was a no-brainer.

    Unfortunately – as with most “no-brain decisions” I should have thought a little harder.

    The people I REALLY need to connect with are readers.

    Writers don’t buy as many books as readers do.

    I know, I know – some of you folks who are reading this are saying “Wait a minute. I’m a writer. I read, right?”

    Yup. Sure you do. But you are not a DEDICATED consumer of books.

    Not in the way that a reader is.

    A blog like mine – that was written with a deep-seated desire to share my experience – and to sell a few books – needs to connect with truly dedicated consumers of books.

    Shoot, did that last sentence even scan?

    Anyway – what you talk about here Joel is of critical importance to anyone who blogs with a purpose in mind.

    I don’t have an easy answer for your question, though. I’m going to have to put some thought into figuring out how to “re-message” my blog.

    yours in storytelling,
    Steve Vernon

    Reply

    Dwight Okita August 13, 2012 at 7:42 am

    Joel, once again a very useful post on blog subtitles.
    Steve, that’s a good point. Are you speaking to readers or writers. I’ll have to think about that one myself.

    Either way, I might tweak my blog subtitle.

    Reply

    Joanna Penn August 13, 2012 at 4:50 am

    Hi Joel, as much as it took me a while to get TheCreativePenn.com right, I am finding my fiction blog at JFPenn.com to be much harder!

    My tagline is ‘ancient mystery, modern thrill’ in terms of promise to the reader – and that encapsulates my books – but in terms of blogging, it makes it an interesting challenge because we also have to consider what people are looking for :) There is little point in blogging for marketing reasons unless you want to get traffic.
    I have been doing some SEO keyword research around the topics of ancient mystery, ancient cities, ancient books and other things I like to explore in my writing. I am also updating the metadata on the articles I have written already, and crafting a better About page so people know what they will be getting. I’ll be blogging about the process when it’s done!
    I think also this promise to the reader is critical for bloggers but also for our books in general.
    Thanks, Joanna

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 13, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Hi Joanna,

    Yes, it’s quite a challenge to work this out for fiction writers. We’ve talked recently about the place that blogs play in the world of marketing fiction, so it’s encouraging to see you taking positive steps to find solutions that work for your specific books.

    Updating the SEO on your posts and revising your About page are both important changes that can have a powerful effect on your blog, and both are really important to take a look at a couple of times a year.

    I’ll look forward to your reports, should be interesting!

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus August 13, 2012 at 4:56 am

    I assume that I am not the only writer who doesn’t always feel like writing about writing.

    The tagline for my Bookmaking blog is “Michael N. Marcus discusses writing, editing, publishing and sometimes other things…”

    Michael N. Marcus
    http://www.bookmakingblog.blogspot.com
    http://www.SilverSandsBooks.com
    http://www.BookFur.com
    http://www.Facebook.com/SilverSandsBooks

    Reply

    Mary Tod August 13, 2012 at 5:37 am

    Hi Joel … based on your advice, I created a new blog a few months ago called A Writer of History ~ thoughts about writing historical fiction. I credit you and Jane Friedman with the change in direction which is proving to be quite fruitful :)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 13, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    That’s great Mary. I’d love to hear more about how it’s working out for you.

    Reply

    Alyson Reuben August 13, 2012 at 5:39 am

    Joel, for me, this article is so timely! Just this morning, as I was posting my Monday entry, I was thinking about ways to target a specific reader-oriented audience. This is so much easier said than done. After reading this, I’ll definitely be thinking of an appropriate tagline. Right now, what I have is very basic, “Alyson Reuben – A Bite of Reuben Sandwich”. While it might be catchy, it’s anything but specific. I’ll be working on this. Thank you for the thought-provoking article!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    Alyson, your tagline is undoubtedly amusing, and there are many worse taglines out there, but I think you can see that this little tiny element of your blog could help you if you can find something that encapsulates your offer to your readers.

    Reply

    Tracy R. Atkins August 13, 2012 at 8:12 am

    This is another great article. Titling and sub-titling your blog is just as important as titling and sub-titling your book. It didn’t dawn on me that I spent weeks considering book cover material, yet when It came time to setup my blog, it was a thirty second decision. You blog will likely become your foremost brand. Branding has consequences.

    From my perspective, most authors have two independent product types to brand and market, the author’s name, and separately their catalog of titles. Each author should have a central website to promote his or her name and latest work. However, what about creating separate sites for each book. I am curious if authors typically build their author brand around a central site, or rely on independent marketing and websites/blogs for each book they produce.

    So how do you sub-brand or sub-title your author site if you promote all of your work on your author blog? Do you sub-title with a genre in mind?
    For those that create different sites for each work, do you simply promote your author blog tagline as being an “author” and then tailor each sub-site for the work itself?

    For me, I created my author blog with the express intent of blogging about each current book, the peripheral items around the book and to be a resource for finding information about me and the book(s) I write. Therefore, I have decided to brand my author blog as a general site for all things “me”, on a professional level. I keep the personal stuff for Facebook. When I have a new book in the pipe, the blog with segue easily into the new work and the previous works will fall down a notch on the site’s prominence.

    However, I felt that using my author blog as my sole market focal point for my book would be a mistake. I wanted a specialized “micro-site” that was 100% dedicated to the book itself. I needed something that would present its best face for the potential customer, every single time. Using my author blog, my newest work no longer appears as the focal point of the site. Readers that might discover my book years down the road, hoping to learn more about it, would be left a little cold if I only had the author blog for them. So that sub-site is the anchor for the work.
    With each sub-site, I have the opportunity to brand and subtitle them differently, for different target audiences. This frees my byline for the author blog to be more focused on me as an author.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 13, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Sounds like a good plan, Tracy. The ways that people use their “author’s name as domain name” blogs vary widely from what I’ve seen, but what guides me is the discoverability factor. In other words, will many people actually be searching for you by name? Or should you do, as Joanna says above, keyword research that focuses on the subjects you write about? All good questions.

    Reply

    Tracy R. Atkins August 14, 2012 at 6:17 am

    Do you think authors should start considering domain name aliasing as a hedge? Most major hosting providers make it easy to purchase multiple .com domains and have them forward to a single site. Should authors start to buy domains based upon their body of their works, and related topics, to help steer traffic? Or would this muddy the waters too much?

    Perhaps it is a non issue with modern search engine technology. Metadata and keyword stuffing doesn’t really work any longer. Top level domain names do appear to have a role in the search engine roster of websites, but real SEO is all in the content anyways.

    Reply

    Linda Katmarian August 13, 2012 at 9:38 am

    Excellent topic, Joel. As a fiction writer who is working on getting my first novel published, I haven’t had much time to consider this. (My the way, your class on self-publishing was excellent.) I have a blog which I call Scheherazade’s Journal where I tend to write flash fiction, but I occasionally deviate from this. I finally created a website at http://www.lindakatmarian.com which gives me more wiggle room to indulge my interests and also has a page for my work-in-progress. This I hope might make me more disciplined in creating a uniform platform. As a fiction writer, I oddly don’t have much interest in sharing writerly advice. I prefer storytelling. If I could just figure out what my groove is supposed to be, I might be able to be more disciplined. Somehow using a subtitle like “Girls just want to have fun” will probably bring the wrong kind of attention.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 13, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    Yes, I don’t think you’ll attract the audience you’re looking for with that one, Linda. But putting thought into this, no matter what you arrive at, will be helpful in positioning your blog as a vital part of your social media network, so don’t give up.

    And thanks for your kind words about the course, it was a pleasure to have you as a participant.

    Reply

    Peter DeHaan August 13, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Joel, this is a great post; now I have some work to do.

    By the way, your tagline is great – and the alliteration is a nice bonus.

    Reply

    RD Meyer August 13, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Interesting post. Definitely something to think about on the marketing side.

    Reply

    Peter DeHaan August 14, 2012 at 8:44 am

    This has been a great exercise. Aside from the fact I have too many blogs, here’s what I came up with:

    Byline: Peter DeHaan on the art and craft of writing

    From the Publisher’s Desk: Publishing tips and commentary from Peter DeHaan

    The Bible Blog: Exploring the biblical narrative with Peter DeHaan

    Spiritually Speaking: Pursuing postmodern biblical spirituality with Peter DeHaan

    The Musings of Peter DeHaan: Sharing a slice of life

    (I’ve included my name in each, not because I’m egotistic, but for SEO — really.)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 14, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Nice work, Peter. You might think about trying to get the word “book” into the taglines of the blogs that relate to publishing.

    Reply

    Katie McAleece August 14, 2012 at 10:55 am

    This is quite a challenge. I’ve thought about it before, but never seriously. It is true: a blog needs a tagline. Plain and simple. Thanks for bringing this to your reader’s attention. Much needed.

    Reply

    Percy Cannon September 3, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Hi Joel, I am about to start a blog around my book “The Business Apostolate”. The domain is http://www.thebusinessapostolate.com, and I couldn’t think of a better tagline than the book’s subtitle: “Insights to Define and Achieve your Mission in Life”. Is it common to have the actual book subtitle as tagline to the corresponding book blog?
    Thanks for posting such great articles and sparking such great discussions.
    Percy

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander September 4, 2012 at 10:41 am

    Hi Percy,

    Yes, there’s a natural connection between your book’s subtitle and the tagline for a blog built around the book. Subtitles can be quite a bit longer, but I would agree that the one you’re using is good for both uses. Please let me know when your blog is live so I can have a look, and good luck with the project.

    Reply

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