5 Steps to Author Blogging Success

by Joel Friedlander on October 30, 2013 · 29 comments

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There’s no better marketing, platform-building, authority-establishing, trust-inducing tool for nonfiction authors than an author blog. And for some fiction authors, too.

[Also see: 6 Compelling Reasons Why Authors Need to Blog]

Although getting started in blogging couldn’t be easier, making it work is another thing altogether. And if you hope to really build something that is both lasting and capable of sustaining you, that takes as much commitment as you’re willing to put into it.

Lots of authors have set up blogs, started writing furiously, only to abandon the blog a few months later, and that’s too bad.

[Also see: Author Blogging 101: 11 Reasons Your Blog Isn’t Working]

And sometimes authors who clearly see the benefits of blogging pull back at the idea they’ll have to commit serious resources, thought, and energy to making it work.

Like most things, blogging can be learned. After all, blogs themselves are a fairly recent invention.

But think about it: blogs are at the heart of the social web, and it’s an author’s ability to make use of the social web that makes all this marketing magic possible.

I was thinking about all this on the drive back from San Francisco this afternoon, after a working lunch with Mike Larsen, who in addition to being a literary agent, also founded and runs the yearly San Francisco Writers Conference.

Part of our work was cooking up a fantastic opportunity for authors who want to get started blogging, or for those who already have a blog but need some help making it work. This whole-day training will be in association with the Writers Conference, and I’ll have more information about it towards the end of the year.

But for now, here are what seem to me to be the 5 steps that will take you from the start to blogging success.

5 Steps to Author Blogging Success

  1. Find your readers
    For some bloggers, it’s surprisingly difficult to find the readers that you’re writing for. But there are established and effective ways to get traffic to your blog.
    [Also see: Author Blogging 101: Where Are the Readers?]
  2. Create compelling content
    There are specific formats that work for blog posts, and knowing which ones your readers will like will help you create content that just can’t be found anywhere else.
    [Also see: 7 Formats for Winning Blog Posts]
  3. Foster engagement
    As writers, we want to be read. As bloggers, engaging your audience with “sticky” content that will keep people reading and coming back for more relies on engagement. There are lots of ways to engage your readers, finding the ones that work for you might take some time but will pay off handsomely.
    [Also see: Writers’ Blogs: 5 Essentials for Engaging Your Readers]
  4. Network with other bloggers
    Growing a blog is something that’s much easier with the help of others. Whether you’re networking with other authors who are starting out, or landing a guest gig on a massive blog in your niche, we all need a network for success. This is the very foundation of getting serious traffic to your blog.
    [Also see: Author Blogging 101: 11 Sources of Organic Traffic]
  5. Profit from your blog
    Some bloggers want to make money, some want to sell books. Others blog to “save the world” or advance a policy position. No matter how you define success, this is the step where you begin to reach your goals.
    [Also see: Direct Marketing, Scottsdale Arizona, and Why a $10 Ebook Can Change Your Life

Well, that’s it in a nutshell. The links will help fill in some of these steps, and you can expect more blogging articles here soon.

I hate to see those abandoned blogs, and I know you can do better than that. If you’ve got any questions, please leave them in the comments.

A Request For You

As part of my job I spend a lot of time looking at author blogs. Some are good, some are not, and some are clearly way above average. They foster community, reader engagement, and build a readership or community that are sustaining.

But I’m only seeing a little slice of the pie.

*So here’s my request: do you know a great author blog? I’d love to hear about it. Please leave a link to the blog in the comments, and say a few words about what makes it so great.

Thanks!

Photo: bigstockphoto.com

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    { 27 comments… read them below or add one }

    Colin Dunbar October 30, 2013 at 12:33 am

    Hey Joel
    Neat article. You probably know his blog; one of the best blogs I’ve seen is Dean Wesley Smith’s. His content is awesome, and he posts really educational stuff (like his “Think Like A Publisher” series). Also, his “Writing In Public” posts are really awesome.

    http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/

    Thanks again for another neat article.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 30, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Hi Colin, thanks for the suggestion. I’ve been reading Dean’s blog for years, and often link to it, so it’s definitely a great suggestion.

    Reply

    RD Meyer October 30, 2013 at 1:13 am

    Maybe this is shameless, but I kind of like my blog. I take on lots of topics – what I think makes good writing, to the business side of the house that most writers despise, to the pros and cons of traditional versus indie publishing. It’s consistently updated, and I answer every comment I get.

    Okay, shameless plug done.
    http://rdmeyerwrites.blogspot.com/

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 30, 2013 at 11:00 am

    RD, no problem with shameless self-promotion (and I see there are a lot of others who followed your lead) and I’m sure your blog is great. See my comment farther down this stream for more.

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus October 30, 2013 at 2:57 am

    I’m not reluctant to plug my http://www.BookMakingBlog.com. I discuss writing, editing, design, publishing, language and sometimes other things. The blog has recently been receiving about 3,000 daily visitors, so apparently others like it, too.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 30, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Glad to hear things are going well, Michael. Not sure what kind of analytics blogger provides, but from my own study, 3,000 daily visitors would translate into an Alexa rank of approximately 35,000. See my comment farther down thread.

    Reply

    Tyler October 30, 2013 at 6:04 am

    While I’m not sure it qualifies as “great” it is an author blog. Like the others I’m referring to my own blog. The blog is Thinking Out Loud at http://www.gtylermills.com. I post about everything from reading, writing, faith, family, sports, and politics. I try to present my own thoughts and observations in informative and entertaining ways. I’ll post anything from book reviews to life’s anecdotal moments, like the time I accidentally stole a shopping cart from a man in wheelchair. http://gtylermills.com/2012/05/01/when-you-assume/

    Reply

    Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt October 30, 2013 at 6:52 am

    Blog – yes, definitely – if you have something you’d like to say to the world. Having a blog is an incentive to think clearly, and learn to communicate those thought clearly in writing. If I’ve gained nothing but that, it would be worth every minute I’ve spent learning.

    Visitors, likers, and commenters – especially the ones with feedback, are a huge gift from the gods of the internet. Your written words are reaching some readers and they like what you offer. There is no better feeling.

    For writers who don’t yet have much published, they are the blazes on the trail, the indicators that you’re going the right way. Toiling in obscurity as you finish the novel-in-progress, the tiny bits of encouragement are a form of drip-irrigation that keeps you growing until the seasonal rains arrive.

    And in today’s epublishing field, blogging is part of the process of getting ready for what you hope will be the big time: you are learning everything you will need to start marketing when you’re ready. My feet are wet in so many areas, courtesy of other bloggers, that it won’t be a cold shock when I step into the ocean that is self-publishing: others have been there before, and have kindly left a guidance system, encouragement, and actual supplies.

    Especially thanks to Joel – there is so much good advice here it boggles the mind.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 30, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Thanks Alicia, very well said. And I agree that blogging is about the best thing you can do to get ready to start publishing books, especially if you learn how to market your blog.

    Reply

    Jason Matthews October 30, 2013 at 7:11 am

    Nice post, Joel, as usual. I have two blogs: one for my fiction and the other for non-fiction. After years of doing this, I believe good content is far more important than posting frequently. That’s fine with me because it takes the pressure off to post multiple times per week or even weekly. If the non-fiction post is getting good traffic, I let it sit a bit longer than normal. For the other blog, posts about NFL football, which is completely unrelated to my novels, have done better than anything else, much to my surprise.
    Shameless plugs below of these examples.
    http://ebooksuccess4free.wordpress.com/
    http://www.thebigbangauthor.com/2011/10/nfl-players-life-expectancy-might-be.html

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 30, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Thanks, Jason. I wonder if there’s a trend for authors to have one blog that’s fiction oriented, and another that’s nonfiction oriented. It makes sense, but with 2 blogs to feed, I can see why you’ve adapted the posting policy you have. So maybe I should start writing about the 49ers?

    Reply

    Pauline Baird Jones October 30, 2013 at 7:21 am

    Jenny Hansen’s More Cowbell is a great blog for reader engagement. Also the Surburban Jungle. Kristen Lamb does a great job with pulling people into her blog as well. Jamie Gold has a great blog and I love {grow} by Mark Schaeffer. It’s technically a social media blog, but he is also an author. It was a huge thrill to be invited to guest blog there. This blog is also now one of my blog stops.

    I was one of those authors who would stop and start with their blog. Then I realized that it was an important part of my marketing strategy. Since I only recently went all indie with my books, I have not been able to tell if the blog has had any impact on my sales, but I know it has helped me be more disciplined. And I’ve slowly found my blogging feet (fingers?).

    The hardest part was finding my blogging voice. I just did a redesign of my blog and I feel like it finally reflects both me and my books. So I’m happy. I’m also pushing myself in November by joining the BlogHer NaBloPoMo.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 30, 2013 at 11:08 am

    Thanks for the great suggestions, Pauline, some of them are new to me, exactly what I was looking for. And good luck with your “new” blog.

    Reply

    Cynthia McCloud October 30, 2013 at 7:44 am

    I always learn something, usually about balancing work and life, from Christina Freeburn at http://theselfrescueprincess.wordpress.com/. And Heidi Ruby Miller at http://heidirubymiller.blogspot.com/ is a role model who’s actively writing and promoting and helping others.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 30, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Thanks, Cynthia, much appreciated.

    Reply

    Steven Partridge October 30, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Good read. I’m working on setting up my blog at the moment. I haven’t decided on a url yet, but am building up a backlist until then. Probably my greatest inspiration right now is this new blog I found a few weeks ago:

    http://peterjstory.com/

    It’s witty and fun, and he’s posting a novel named “Things Grak Hates” as he writes it. So that’s pretty cool.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 30, 2013 at 11:14 am

    Steven, thanks for the link to a very interesting blog.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 30, 2013 at 11:17 am

    Dear readers:

    The reason I asked this question was in the hope of getting links to blogs that *readers* think are great and from which the blogger is getting great results.

    As a self-publisher myself, I understand the impulse to self-promotion, but I’m interested in which blogs are really working, building community, enhancing book sales, raising the blogger’s reputation, and which keep people coming back for more.

    So, if possible, let me know if you read any blogs that meet that criteria, and thanks for all the input.

    Reply

    Jennifer Ellis October 30, 2013 at 11:28 am

    Well, since you asked, and since I am on hold with the IRS trying to get my EIN (sigh), my favourite author blogs are:

    David Gaughran – He is usually bang on, usually a bit edgy and always blunt. I appreciate that.
    http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/

    Hugh Howey – Although he blogs a lot about his personal experiences, he is always forthright and allows for insider insight into what it is like to self-publish and be successful.
    http://www.hughhowey.com/

    Passive Guy – I don’t know if his site is actually a blog, since he is mostly compiling the writing of others, but it is definitely one of my go-to sites for what is going on in the industry.
    http://www.thepassivevoice.com/

    Others blogs I check out routinely include: http://catherineryanhoward.com/ and your own site (would you call it a blog?). I love your site for the detail – if I want to know something specific and potentially arcane (but critical) about self-publishing, I can generally find it on your site.

    I will also shamelessly plug my own blog: http://www.jenniferellis.ca
    I try to make it as useful and detailed as possible. I only post once a week or once every two weeks in order to ensure that the posts are as well-researched and thought out as possible.

    And I am still on hold…

    Reply

    Julia Tottenham-Whitehall October 30, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    I’m a reader, not a writer. I read your site because I’ve thought about changing careers and want to keep up with the industry. At this point, frankly, it doesn’t look very profitable unless you’re really good or really lucky. So, I continue to practice.

    To answer your question, outside of your blog, these are the others I visit:

    http://seeleyjames.com/ -Great thriller reviews (reviews for writers I think he calls them) and interviews, plus whatever he’s thinking. About 1-2 per week.

    http://www.thecreativepenn.com/ -Everything you could ever want to know about self-publishing.

    http://mysterywritingismurder.blogspot.com/ -About the art of writing in a way I can understand.

    Reply

    monica devine October 30, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    I struggled with my blog for awhile because I couldn’t find my “niche”; I’m interested in so many things. But I let it evolve organically, and I’m now happy with the results and traffic. I’ve removed a ton of links in preference for a cleaner read, and am considering moving from Blogger to Wordpress, with separate pages for my 5 traditionally published children’s books. I cross genres (writing poetry, fiction, non-fiction & children’s), and religiously read your blog, Joel, because I want to self-publish. Thanks for all you do; I’ve learned a ton from you!
    http://monicadevine.blogspot.com

    Reply

    Greg Strandberg October 30, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    I like Copyblogger and I like to read Moz.com for more in-depth articles about SEO and such.

    I like this local blog from town; it shows me how not to leave comments on blogs: http://4and20blackbirds.wordpress.com/

    I like reading posts at The Book Deal after you mentioned it awhile back, I just wish post were more frequent.
    http://www.alanrinzler.com/blog/

    I like Linsay Buroker’s site because it’s got some good insight on self-publishing: http://www.lindsayburoker.com/

    Reply

    Kali Lightfoot October 31, 2013 at 5:39 am

    I love John Scalzi’s blog. http://whatever.scalzi.com/ He published a book of his blog entries, too.

    Reply

    Liana Mir October 31, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    I think the only one of these that interests me as a reader instead of as a writer is Scalzi’s. I find most writers blog about writing. It has its place and it’s hard to break out of, so I haven’t really yet, but I’m always looking for a good author blog that appeals to READERS. I haven’t found many, but I do like Naomi Novik’s.

    Reply

    Marina November 1, 2013 at 1:47 am

    One author blog I adore is Joshilyn Jackson’s Faster Than Kudzu. It’s the funniest blog I’ve ever seen, just bursting with character. She can write about the most mundane thing and make it enormously entertaining. I’d never heard of her till I stumbled on her blog, and now I’ve bought all her books just because her blog was so much fun. So even though she doesn’t talk much about writing or publishing, the blog definitely works as a selling tool, just by being such a great advertisement for her skill as a writer.

    Another blog I enjoy for different reasons is Tansy Rayner Roberts’. She’s a mad Dr Who fan, and writes a lot about that and other fantasy/scifi TV series. She has her finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the spec fic world and writes particularly interesting commentary on feminist issues in the field. Another blog that’s not much about writing, but more focused on entertaining the reader with things the author is also passionate about.

    Reply

    Roger Drego November 12, 2013 at 2:53 am

    Thank you for posting this blog, Joel. It was exactly what I needed to read at this moment, in regard to my blogging and other points of life. I agreed that we must keep in touch with other bloggers also.

    Cheers,
    Roger.

    Reply

    Asia M. July 18, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    This may seem so vain, but I just wanted to share my blog. I’m a young, aspiring author and I frequent your site to help with building my platform. Thanks for the wonderful information! I’ve used much, if not all that I’ve read so far.

    Reply

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