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So You Want to Start Blogging?
By Patricia Fry
It was brought to my attention recently that not every author is blogging. In fact, there are SPAWN members who are still intimidated by the idea of launching out into the foreign world of the blog. Yet, they are curious about what it is all about, whether it is worth getting involved in and just how to do it.
What is a Blog?
Think of blogging in terms of journaling or keeping a diary; only a blog is not a private affair. While the purpose of a journal is generally for reflection, contemplation and inspiration, a blog (or web log) is designed to share information, stories, experiences, gossip, feelings, thoughts, resources and so forth with hundreds of thousands of others.
Start your own blog by using one of the following software programs: bBlog, Blosxom, Blogger, Nucleus, Movable type, WordPress (the one I use) or one that your webmaster or other expert recommends. Do your own Internet research to locate the software that contains the features you need. Here’s a site that has created a detailed chart listing the various features of over a dozen blogging programs. http://asymptomatic.net/blogbreakdown.htm
I have two blog sites now. One of them relates to publishing and writing issues: http://www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog. It’s a pretty straightforward site and I add text to it practically every day. My newest blog site features topics related to cats. I had my webmaster, Virginia Lawrence, create it so I can promote my book of cat stories, Catscapades, Tales of Ordinary and Extraordinary Cats. Because of the nature of this blog, I wanted to be able to insert photographs. So it is configured differently than the publishing blog. Check it out at http://www.matilijapress.com/catscapades. You’ll notice that I post to this site every 3 or 4 days.
A blog can be many things and serve many purposes. When you have a book to promote, it makes sense to turn your blog into a promotional tool. Whether your book is a historical novel, a how-to gardening book, a memoir or a book of poetry, let your blog entries spread the word about your book and you will sell more books.
Here are eight ideas for using your blog to promote your book:
- Stay focused on your topic. Make sure that you are providing the information your audience wants in a way that makes it palatable. Stay on track when adding to your blog so that you are always addressing your target audience. Sure, you can write about something personal if you want, but try to tie it into your primary topic. For my publishing blog, I might share something about a recent trip I took or a concept that caught my attention, but I always try to connect it to the subject of writing and/or publishing and I always try to pitch one of my books in my blog entries.
- Use numerous keywords. If your audience is seeking information about gardening in the northwest, continually use words in your blog posts that your potential audience would use in an Internet search.
- Participate at other blog sites. Search out blogs on your topic through Google, Google Alerts (www.google.com/alerts), www.blogsrater.com and http://technorati.com. Leave comments, ask to be interviewed, offer articles and other information.
- Offer freebies. Do you sometimes wonder if you’re being read? Offer free items or run contests from time to time. The response is one way of learning if your blog is being read. I know one author who offered a $100 prize to the 100th person who purchased her book.
- Turn your blog entries into articles. Either submit them as is to appropriate sites and publications or tweak them to fit. Most of my blog entries are suitable for publishing, as I’m mindful to create stand-alone articles. Sometimes, however, a newsletter or magazine editor wants a longer piece or a more condensed version. Not a problem—I just rewrite the blog to fit their submission requirements. Of course, articles sell books. How? In a word: exposure.
- When you publish informative articles on the topic of your book, this adds to your professional credibility.
- You can usually add a few lines at the end of the article in which to promote your book and your blog.
- Create handouts. Use specific blog entries as handouts when you promote your book through presentations, workshops or at book festivals. If yours is a local history book and your blog follows suit, your audiences would enjoy receiving those blog entries containing historical information that doesn’t appear in the book. Hand out your blog entries featuring additional tips, resources and information related to your self-help or how-to book. If you are promoting a novel or a book of poetry, delight your audience by handing out some of the short stories or new poems you post at your blog.
- Compile a booklet of blog entries. If you’re a dedicated blogger, you could actually produce a booklet every six months or once a year and offer them free to anyone who purchases your book. Maybe you’ve written a novel featuring Americans who’ve chosen to live in the Middle East. Your blog, then, might follow some of the innovative things happening in the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Oman and Bahrain, for example. Report on positive accounts of the people, some of the amazing historical and newer architectural sites and interesting tidbits about the culture. Wouldn’t that make an interesting promotional tool?
- Write a book based on your best blog subjects. Review your blog entries. If you’re like me, you may occasionally hit upon a topic that would make a good book. So start writing. With thought and research, your blog on the feral kitten you rescued over the summer might become a book featuring how to successfully raise a feral cat. If your current book features an aspect of pet care, this new book would make a great spin-off product. Your blog entry on how you created curb appeal that sold your home, could become an entire book for others who want to make an excellent impression when selling their properties. And what a great companion this would be for your book on family financing.
You started blogging because you heard that blogs sell books. Use these tips and you’ll reach even more people and sell even more books.
–Patricia Fry is the president of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) www.spawn.org and the author of 29 books. Read her latest book The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book, http://www.matilijapress.com/rightway.html. If you are struggling to promote a book, order Patricia’s newest book, The Author’s Repair Kit. http://www.matilijapress.com/author_repairkit.html. Visit her informative publishing blog often at http://www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog.
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