Friday, June 14, 2013

Confessions of a Blog Slut: 10 Tips for Blogging Sanity

Yeah, it's no secret. I'm quite the blogging slut. Never turn down an opportunity. Hop in the blogging bed with anyone who looks vaguely friendly. People tell me I'm crazy. They're probably right.

Yet here I am, blogging. And you've read this far, right?

[Now....Does blogging help an author sell books? Well, that's a subject for another blog. I don't really know. But it might help somewhere else...keep reading.]

How big a slut am I? One daily book blog (six days a week, actually). Four sites on which I am a regular contributor (including this one). And from 20-40 guest posts each month on other sites.

All that's to say I have a few tips. Here are 10 things I'd suggest if you enjoy blogging and want to increase your exposure. (Because if you don't enjoy it, for heaven's sake, don't do it. Life's too short!)

1) Keep a running idea file. I occasionally steal ideas. There. I said it. If I see something in a magazine or on a website I think could be adapted to my worldbuilding or books or characters or publishing journey or writing advice, I stick a note in my "IDEAS" document. It's just a MS Word doc that lives on my Amazon Cloud Drive so I can access it from home or Evil Day Job or on the road.

2) Minimize the hard sell. Content is king. Promote your books obliquely, and try to be interesting. Nobody wants to read constant "buy me" messages. The fun thing about blogging (or any social media) is the connections we can make with readers, other authors, or industry professionals.

3) Mine your characters. Tired of hearing your own voice? Make your characters blog for you. They need to earn their keep. It's a fun way to let readers hear from characters that might not get a chance to speak out in your books.

4) Ask your readers for ideas. I have THE most awesome group of readers on my daily blog that anyone could ask for, and they have great ideas. Some of them do occasional guest book reviews for my site. A lot of them participate in weekly chats. They even offer up ideas for guest posts or flash fiction.

5) Be a reader. An extension of #2. Before we were authors, we were readers. So share what you're reading. Interview other authors. Open your space to guest posts from other bloggers. Share your love of books with like-minded souls.

6) Don't recycle, but do repurpose. If readers are willing to spend their time following your blogging efforts, reward them with new content. I try to never reuse a blog post. I have taken an old one and given it a new spin, or applied its basic idea to a different book or character. But don't repeat when you can help it.

7) Keep a master list. If you're going to do a lot of blogging, you have to keep those deadlines and run dates straight. I keep a "Master PR List" using an awesome free program called Wunderlist. I have it on my computer at home, my computer at the day job, my cell phone, and my Kindle--it syncs between all the devices. I'm also able to keep a daily "to do" list there (promote x, write on this for y, send z to website to run on abc date).

8) Don't reinvent the wheel. I was drowning at one point, trying to keep up with everything myself and still manage the day job and the writing career (I mean, no books=no need to do all this, right?). Rather than drop projects, I got help on my daily blog and some of my ongoing freelance blog jobs in the form of a virtual assistant. Stephen digs up artwork, does the daily blog posts (I write them and email them to him) and layouts; researches links; even rough-drafts book blurbs. This frees me up to do more writing.

9) Post early, post often. Analytics don't lie. A daily blog will draw a lot more readers than one that's updated weekly or even twice a week. I also won't lie. A daily blog is a huge time commitment, even with an assistant. So really and truly--you have to love it. If you can't blog more than once a week minimum, I honestly don't think it's worth it. Just keep your website updated as much as you can and don't worry about blogging.

10) Experiment. Shake things up every once in a while and see what works. I tried doing a slow-read book club on my blog for a while--reading a chapter a week of a book and discussing it. I've been doing the same type of thing at Tor.com for the past two years, making my way through Stephen King's seven-book Dark Tower series, one chapter at a time, and it works well there. But my blog doesn't have the reach or automatic following of tor.com, and the book club just didn't work for me. This year, I started a Wednesday series called "Shop Talk" where I blither on about something interesting in the world of publishing or genre fiction--last week's was on the whole sexism in the science fiction community debate.

So, there you have it, my handy blogging tips. Oh, and back to what blogging might do for you. Again, I don't know if it sells books. I suspect its main value, besides being fun to do, is increasing visibility. All I know is I had a cryptic email from my editor last week containing one sentence: "What are your blog hits per month these days?" Hm...So, I guess the #11 tip is: Keep up with your analytics. Are your hits increasing, decreasing, or staying flat? If the latter, time to shake things up!)

So...do you blog? Other tips you could add? Or, if you're primarily a blog reader, what do you like to see on author blogs?

4 comments:

Roger said...

I am primarily a blog reader. I visit on a daily basis 20 main blog sites, adding visits to other sites from the side bars. It helps me keep up with new releases and author interviews or Q&A. I think I like best the ever fun character interviews and snippets from yet to be released stories. It's a lot of fun when an author adds photos of locations from the books. Recipes of the locations are mouth watering.

Suzanne Johnson said...

Thanks for stopping by, Roger! I have a lot of fun with the character interviews. I need to do more recipes...maybe Glory will do a series of holiday menus (because God knows DJ's cooking skills are worse than her aim).

And I guess I should add another thing I'll be trying for the first time this fall: flash-fiction!

M.V.Freeman said...

Suzanne,
You are a plethora of info--and I appreciate you so very much.

And Roger mentioned recipes--I'm ALL about that! :)

And Flash Fiction--yikes, but I am dying to hear more

Chris Bailey said...

Like Roger said, I really like photos by the author. And they take up a lot of space!