Blogging for Authors and How You Can Help

by Joel Friedlander on January 21, 2013 · 44 comments

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This happens a couple of times a week these days:

An author is telling me her plans, all about the research that’s gone into her book, the way the edit has come together, the great art she found for the cover, that kind of thing.

At some point the question comes.

It might be, “I’m not sure what to charge for the book.”

Or it could be “How do you get those testimonials I see on the back of books?”

Frequently it’s something like, “I don’t know whether to do an ebook first, or a print book as well as an ebook. What about offset, should I think about that?”

And listen, these are all rational and ordinary questions.

But I always have the same questions in response:

What do your readers say?

What kinds of books do your readers like to buy?

What price are your readers paying for books like yours?

Now all this is pretty ordinary market research, but inevitably this discussion leads right to a common subject: your author platform.

That’s because most of these authors have been concentrating so hard on their book—getting the book done, getting it right, looking forward to that magical day when it will be for sale and they will be a “published author.”

Enter the Blog

Frequently the advice that comes out of these talks involves planning for a book launch much, much farther down the road than is strictly necessary.

That’s because there’s a huge difference when you publish a book and you have no author platform, nobody rooting for your success, nobody willing to help you celebrate the publication and help you let other people know about it.

Publishing into a void is depressing, frustrating, and, often, futile.

But there’s a cure for that, and that’s why I’m so enthusiastic about author blogs.

Authors are in a unique position to profit from the incredible potential of a blog.

Hey, we’re all writers, aren’t we?

But what I’ve found is that blogging isn’t so simple.

It’s not so easy to get ahead of the technical stuff, for instance, when you’re starting out.

Not so easy to figure out how to create content that gets people to stop and pay attention, even take an action.

Not so easy to understand why one blog grows and prospers, while another sits fallow and eventually dries up.

Blogging, the Book

With a lot of encouragement, I’ve starting pulling together my articles on blogging and planning a new book to help authors with blogging.

Help to understand the incredible potential in blogging.

Help with turning your content into magnetic blog posts.

With learning how to make search engines your friends and collaborators.

The whole nine yards.

And that’s where you come in.

I’ve been working hard on this book, but the thing that’s missing is your input. You know what problems you’re running into with blogging.

Or maybe you haven’t been able to get started, that’s okay too.

So just below here I’ve posted the entire outline for the book. I would really appreciate if you can take a minute to look it over.

What’s missing? What needs to be covered in detail? What are you most curious about?

Every week I surf dozens, maybe hundreds of blogs. I talk to other bloggers, network with them. Over the years I’ve grown this blog from no traffic at all to the most highly-visited blog in the self-publishing field.

Last month over 50,000 people visited, read articles, left comments, asked questions and otherwise engaged with the community here.

Now I want to show you exactly how I did that, and how you can too.

So help me out and give me your best feedback on this outline.

And don’t hold back. I’m counting on you, and I can take your criticism if you think I’m off base, so go ahead and let me have it.

And thanks.

author blogging

Photo: bigstockphoto.com

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    { 42 comments… read them below or add one }

    Alana Mander January 21, 2013 at 1:33 am

    This outline looks great and as someone who is very new to blogging I would definitely buy it. It seems to cover all the questions and concerns I have with taking my blog to the next level. The one thing I would like covered though that I didn’t notice here is meta-tags; what they are and how to use them.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 21, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Thanks for the suggestion, Alana. Part of going “under the hood” of blogging is understanding which of these things you need to worry about and which you can safely ignore, especially when you’re starting out.

    Reply

    Barney January 21, 2013 at 3:44 am

    I think you’ve covered all the key areas, Joel. I’m experienced with WordPress and at blogging (although I don’t have a blog right now – all my online life is in social media) and I wish I’d had a book based on your outline many years ago. I had to learn (and am still learning) the lessons the hard way.

    In fact, I might even buy the book once it’s available. The kind of reference material you’re bringing together will undoubtedly be helpful, even for the reasonably experienced.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 21, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Thanks, Barney. I recently put on a webinar for IPBA about building out your social media marketing with a hub-and-outupost model, and I think a blog makes a lot of sense for most people to use as a hub. Although I’m clearly aiming the book at new bloggers, I hope some of the sections on community building, traffic and engagement, and monetization will appeal to more experienced bloggers. I know I still read tons of blogs on these same subjects because one thing blogging means is that you are learning all the time.

    Reply

    Simon Jenner January 21, 2013 at 4:04 am

    Your outline looks very comprehensive – perhaps scarily so as I want to be writing more than blogging! I will be interested to read the ‘time problem’ section.

    Content is the area that worries me the most – it seems a lot more straightforward to offer valuable content if you are a non-fiction author. Perhaps some case studies of fiction authors who are successfully blogging and engaging readers (and not just about their self-publishing journey) would be useful.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 21, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Hi Simon. Yes, the “How will I find the time for all this?” is the most common concern, right after “What am I going to write about?” Because I’ve been blogging 4 to 6 days a week since 2009, I think I’ll be able to help people with both those areas.

    Reply

    Carol Brill January 21, 2013 at 4:40 am

    Joel, I have learned so much following your blog. You are so generous with your knowledge, and this book looks like another great example of that sharing.
    I started my blog over a year ago, mostly based on what I learned from reading yours. Would have loved to have this guide back then, but even a year in, you plan to cover things that continue to baffle me.
    Any chance, you’ll add Blogspot insights to your list?
    thanks, carol http://www.4broadminds.blogspot.com/

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 21, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Carol, I’m honored, and so pleased to have you as a reader. Your blog is terrific and looks like it’s growing quite well, and you’re getting some great reader engagement.

    Isn’t it much more fun when you get positive feedback and results? That’s what I want to communicate to authors. Although I have little to offer on blogspot specifically, I’d love to talk to you about your first year in blogging and the lessons you’ve learned.

    Reply

    Thomas Rydder January 21, 2013 at 5:29 am

    Hi Joel…
    Very comprehensive outline…
    Two things come to mind, and if you’ve covered them, my apologies…
    1) How to balance the blogging and the duties of writing (that’s if it’s even your intention to cover anything other than blog set up)
    2) Do you have anything in there about the best way to attract newcomers – following and commenting on another person’s blog or site?
    3) Leaving a backlink signature in any comments you make

    Can’t wait to see the finished product :)
    Thomas Rydder
    http://thomasrydder.wordpress.com/

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 21, 2013 at 11:50 am

    Thanks, Thomas, I appreciate it. Yes, I intend to cover everything from coming up with a name for your blog to building a sustainable business on the platform you create.
    1) Will definitely talk about this, see my comment to Simon Jenner above.
    2) There are sections on blog marketing and traffic strategies, because without readers blogging is pretty sad
    3) Great marketing tip, and I’ll be sure to include it.

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus January 21, 2013 at 6:29 am

    Five topics for you:

    (1) Frequency. I think you recently stopped posting on Tuesday and Thursday. What’s the minimum frequency to be effective? Does a blogger suffer if people visit a blog on a day when nothing has been posted? I post at least five times per week. Sometime I’ll post an updated rerun, or even an un-updated “evergreen,” because I get new visitors who have not seen the original.

    (2) Monetizing — running ads for others. Blogger makes it easy to present Google Adwords, which can bring in a few hundred bucks a month. The blogger may not like what is being advertised. If the blogger is genuinely interested in ads but clicks on them too often, Adwords may cancel the deal because they assume the blogger is trying to click to generate income.

    (3) What about abandoning a blog when the blogger is not interested in the topic? Should it be deleted? I have several blogs that are theoretically “on hiatus” but I allow to stay available much like an old book that is still on sale. Old blogs can send traffic to new blogs, and maybe sell some books.

    (4) Moderated or not, and how to deal with spam?

    (5) Allowing anonymous comments. About half of my comment-posters refuse to use their name (and others may use fake names).

    New site for my books about publishing, just launched this weekend: http://www.CreateBetterBooks.com/

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 21, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Michael, thanks for your specfic suggestions, much appreciated. Posting frequency, monetization strategies, and comments are all topics I’ll be covering, they are really important. And thanks for suggesting the idea of “blog lifespan,” I’ll add that to my outline.

    Reply

    Yvonne Hertzberger January 21, 2013 at 6:46 am

    If you can accomplish all that in a comprehensive way my hat is off to you. I will buy the book. I am particularly interested in SEO, key words, tags and how to find the ones that will work and use them correctly.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 21, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Well, my secret, Yvonne, is that I’ve been writing the book—in the form of blog posts—for a year, so I have about 60% of it already done. Thanks for the suggestions.

    Reply

    Anne Charnock January 21, 2013 at 7:39 am

    This looks comprehensive and I’ll buy it.
    I enjoy blogging and I’m specifically keen to get advice on how to expand my readership beyond people who actually know me! Friends and other contacts have been very supportive but I need to reach others. I’m not sure I’m setting the right priorities so I hope your book will help.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 21, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Anne, you’ve put your finger on the number one concern of most bloggers, and what I call your blog’s “existential need”—readers. Yep, I’ll be going into that subject in earnest.

    Reply

    kim January 21, 2013 at 9:38 am

    I love the outline and can’t wait for the book to be ready. I have been blogging for fun the last few years and now I am ready to blog at the next level. Thanks.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 21, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Thanks, Kim, you sound ready to really make an impact, I love that.

    Reply

    Pamela Hegarty January 21, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Your outline looks comprehensive and well organized. Have you thought about including links to websites? For example, you could include a link to a source for photos to use in blogs in the photos section, or a link to an example of a great “About” page. Of course, this can become complicated or outdated given the fluid nature of websites. Another approach would be to have a resources section at the end of the book that includes all the useful links, so it would be easier to keep up to date. Or you could have a page on your website with these resource links for your readers of this book. In any case, I thank you for your continued valuable support of indie publishers and all the valuable content that you provide on this website. Best of luck.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 21, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Pamela,

    Thanks. Yes, the book will link out extensively to information and resources for readers. This is useful for ebook readers and, luckily, it’s much easier to keep ebooks up to date, and I’m also looking at ways to extend the book to web-based resources, so we are thinking along the same lines.

    Reply

    susan troccolo January 21, 2013 at 11:50 am

    Your outline looks very comprehensive–I’ve looked it over twice and don’t see anything I’d miss. Then again, since I’m new I don’t know what I don’t know. One thought might be to develop one broad brush chapter on a few of the other companies a blogger may want to know about as they develop their plan. I had to struggle somewhat to learn of the existence of MailChimp, CloudFire, others..some free, some not. By doing an Excel type spreadsheet of what is out there and the services they offer, you can help a beginning blogger get the ‘bigger’ picture. Oh, and give them a grade. Purely subjective of course, but why not.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 21, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Susie, that’s an interesting idea to “grade” resources. Not sure how that would work, but I’ll definitely think about it. Mostly my approach has been to only recommend the best resources, and the ones I’ve chosen to use myself. But I think this is also a place for the extended type of linking that Pamela was talking about above, so thanks for that.

    Reply

    Christina Li January 21, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    That’s an extremely comprehensive contents page. However, I didn’t see anything addressed specifically to fiction authors. Can you address that? How can having a blog really help a fiction writer? Or does it just take away from writing? What should a fiction writer blog about?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 21, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    Yes, this is the question that gets asked frequently. I will make sure to include a section on blogging for fiction authors, and I often refer to it specifically in discussing blogging. The blog plays a different role for most fiction authors, and I’m looking forward to exploring that more.

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus January 21, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    Here’s a tip about naming a blog:

    Many people apparently don’t realize that it costs just a few bucks per year to have blllyblog.com instead of billyblog.blogspot.com. or the WordPress.com equivalent. A simpler URL is easier to remember and type, and demonstrates seriousness.

    I suppose there should be a discussion of blog hosts. There are many. Here’s one list: http://mashable.com/2007/08/06/free-blog-hosts/

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 22, 2013 at 10:32 am

    Michael, that’s a great topic, and one I plan to cover, mostly from the point of view of not becoming (in Brian Clark’s phrase) a “digital sharecropper.” And hosting is in the outline, I think that’s important especially for newbies, thanks.

    Reply

    Belinda Pollard / @Belinda_Pollard January 22, 2013 at 1:32 am

    Looks great Joel. Thanks for all the excellent stuff you share.

    You are probably covering this, but one of the issues I’ve wrestled with in the past is how to organise my different online “personalities”, because I do so many different kinds of writing. The best solution I could come up with eventually was to have two blogs: one about writing and publishing tips (my “business” blog) and one about wildernesses and animals and spiritual themes (my “author” blog).

    Oh, and Chapter 1 for me needs to be what the magic trick is to make me Actually Blog. ;-) So much to write, so little time…

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 22, 2013 at 10:35 am

    Hi Belinda, thanks for your thoughts. I think lots of authors are wondering the same things and often coming to similar solutions, thanks for the suggestion. I’ll add it to the outline.

    Magic tricks? Hmmm, have to think about that one, although an editorial calendar might help.

    Reply

    Marko Saric January 23, 2013 at 2:29 am

    Sounds like a good plan and the outline looks extensive! We need more authors to experience the benefits of having a blog!

    Reply

    Kathy January 23, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Hi Joel,

    Thanks for sharing your outline. In responding to previous comments, you’ve mentioned that you plan to address things like how to find time for blogging, how to find topics to write about, and how to stop procrastinating and actually blog. I just want to reiterate that those are big issues for me, along with other “psychological” aspects of blogging. (Like, how do I get started when I’m staring at a blank screen? How can I get over the feeling that I’m not enough of an expert to share anything useful? What if I’m writing a blog post and it’s not going well and I get frustrated?) Although I see several places where topics like these might be addressed, they didn’t jump out at me immediately when I scanned the outline. Maybe there could be a chapter that focuses solely on the inner writing process, completely apart from technical aspects like tags and formatting. I think you’ve blogged about freewriting before, for example.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 23, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Hi Kathy,

    You know, I think that’s a really good idea, and one I hadn’t considered. Although there are sections on the blogging mindset, finding topics and other writing-related subjects, I think putting that all together in a chapter that deals with the nitty gritty of how to get this stuff done would be very valuable.

    I can tell you that over the 3+ years I’ve been blogging here, there have been many harrowing moments, blank screens, despair, and the certainty that everything I was doing was bound to fail.

    Confronting that reality and offering some help from my own (and others’) experience will make the book much better. Thanks!

    Reply

    Zac January 23, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Wow, Joel, this looks great. This book is exactly what I need, as I’m trying to muddle through most of those questions in my own writing journey. Thanks for pulling all this info together into a single book. I’m sure it will be worth its weight in gold. The only question I have is: how long do I have to wait before I can read it?

    And thanks for all the useful and informative posts. I’ve really been enjoying reading your blog and have come to consider it as one of my top resources on self-publishing. I’ve learned a ton already. Keep up the good work.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 25, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Thanks for your feedback, Zac, and keep on reading.

    Reply

    Roger C. Parker January 25, 2013 at 11:11 am

    Dear Joel:
    I am excited to hear about your forthcoming book about blogging, I sure it will provide a comprehensive resource, similar to your self-publishing book.

    My only concern is the ambitiousness of the topic, and having to wait until it’s published to access your information.

    Have you considered releasing it as a series of shorter special topics, or reports, before the “real,” or “whole 9 yards,” book is published?

    Anyway, I’m sure I speak for many when I say that I’m looking forward to your book.
    Roger

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 25, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Roger,

    Thanks very much for your enthusiasm. Of course, as a regular reader you will know that simply clicking the “Author Blogging 101″ topic in the sidebar will reveal many of the blog posts the book will be based on.

    I haven’t had much success so far with shorter reports, so I hadn’t considered doing that. Maybe I should think about publishing each section as it’s done, is that your idea?

    It’s an idea that merits consideration. I’m probably going to release the manuscript once it’s done to elicit comments and suggestions, although that won’t be a paid produce, more of a crowdsourcing effort.

    Reply

    Roger C. Parker January 25, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    **Maybe I should think about publishing each section as it’s done, is that your idea?**

    Dear Joel:
    Yes, that’s right. Publish each section as a Kindle ebook, or report, as its done.

    Each section will expose your project as “news” to new prospective readers and increase anticipation for the final book.

    I think the “elicits comments and suggestions” will appeal to an entirely different market, there’s probably little or no overlap.
    Roger

    Reply

    Roger C. Parker January 25, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Regarding topics suggestions….
    All of the topics look great, but I don’t see any mention of graphics within blog posts, i.e.,
    * How important is it to add graphics to blog post? Are they a luxury or a necessity?
    * What are my options for graphics, i.e., formats, types, etc.
    * Where do graphics come from and what do they cost, i.e., the pros and cons of stock art, screen captures, do I need Photoshop?
    * How do I control the size and placement of graphics
    * Should graphics be “literal” or generic, i.e., decorative, atmospheric?
    Roger

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 25, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Yes, you’ve identified one of the less complete parts of the outline, the Multimedia section. Although I will be dealing with using photos in blog posts and how to source, size and upload them, I don’t think I’ll be going into a lot of detail about graphics, formats, graphics programs and the like.

    Blogging is such a big subject that the challenge in putting this book together so far has been making a clear decision about what to include and what to exclude. I’m not really trying to create a resource that has everything in it, but rather a streamlined guide that will walk authors through the concepts, tools, strategies and tactics I’ve used here and observed on other people’s blogs.

    That’s a pretty big job in itself.

    I really appreciate your suggestions and will include some of them in my outline. I hope you’ll send any other ideas you have as they occur.

    Reply

    Lana February 3, 2013 at 7:58 am

    Hi Joel
    Just what i need !!!
    Looks delicious!
    When is it available??? :)
    Thanks Lana

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 4, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Thanks, Lana. I’m planning for a spring launch, so keep an eye out.

    Reply

    Rebecca Jean Downey February 7, 2013 at 10:10 am

    I’ve been checking off the items in your outline, and had to give up as it all seems so pertinent for newbies like me. Number one question would be self-hosted or free sites. Also, I am totally clueless to plug-ins. My last items are HTML for newbies and Google Analytics to grow my blog. My thanks. I hope to speak with you on Friday during our class call with Dan.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 7, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Thanks so much for having a look, Rebecca. Maybe we’ll get a chance to talk about blogging on the call, that would be fun.

    Reply

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