Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Blog is Dead....Long Live the Blog!

I was sitting around, pondering what to blog about today, when I got an email notice that my fantabulous Southern Magic chapter was conducting a survey about our blog. This blog. This very one.

I started answering, then paused and went back to the stats pages to study the history of this blog. Which posts had gotten lots of hits. Which ones hadn't. How much engagement there was, really, outside our own chapter members.

Back in the olden days (you know, two or three years ago), blogs were THE thing. The key to the elusive "platform," the thing every author should have in order to build that platform. In December 2009, fresh from signing my first contract and told by my publisher to "build a platform," I started a blog. However, the whole "build-a-blog-and-they-will-come" thing didn't work so well.

I struggled to find topics to write about. I wrote about my dogs. My day job. My first book, which was still two years away from actually being released (having signed with a fine but decidedly slow publisher). Then I stopped blogging, started again, stopped again. I blogged about writing. A few people read it, but I think they were stumbling past it on the way to somewhere else.

As 2012 approached, I decided to take the whole blogging thing seriously. I targeted who I wanted to reach: readers of paranormal and urban fantasy. I upped the frequency to six times a week. I gave away books and books and more books...not just my books, but books in my genre by other authors. I cross-promoted on Twitter, not having found (and still not finding) Facebook to be a great generator of blog traffic. Slowly, over three years, I built a readership. It's not huge, but it's there. Quite a few of the regular readers are people I have come to consider friends, even if we've never met in person.

But the blog is growing a little stale, and I'm again struggling to figure out what to put on it. So the chapter's examination of this blog echoes some of the questions I'm asking myself. Who's reading the blog? What I can we do to attract more readers to it? What can I do to make it fun for the folks who do read it?

For a blog such as this one, where there are many authors writing different genres, what do the blog readers want to see--more genre-specific material? Less? Writing advice? General life-of-the-author stuff? And how do we bring in more traffic and keep them engaged? Is our purpose to advance ourselves as authors? To help other authors on their own road to publication? To attract new members to Southern Magic? To reach our own chapter members?

Lots of questions to answer. Lots of thinking to do.

I don't think the blog is dead as an author platform in general, but I do think it has to evolve and--like everything we do as schedules grow busier and social media morphs and twists--it has to be evaluated for its effectiveness.

After my own self-examination, I've determined that my own blog has life left in it and I plan to keep it. It's something I enjoy, even though I don't get to spend as much time with it as I'd like. It helps me build subscribers to my newsletter. I've cut blogging back from six days a week to five (or four if the day job is misbehaving) because I discovered Fridays were a low-readership day. I'm searching for ways to broaden it to include other fiction genres since I'm writing suspense now as well as paranormal, but haven't figured that out yet.

So, hey. HEY! Is anyone out there? What are your thoughts on blogs? If you're an author, what entices you to read a blog post? If you're a reader, what do you want to see from an author blog post--and would you follow a blog with a broad variety of authors or prefer to stick with your favorite genres and individual authors?

Inquiring bloggers want to know! And because I'm a firm believer in bribery, leave a comment and enter the rafflecopter form for a chance at a $10 gift card to the online book retailer of your choice. Open internationally!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Carla Swafford said...

First, this blog has lost a lot of readers because of many reasons but the ones I believe are, we forget to be consistent in meeting our post dates. So we go days without new posts. And there are so much on-line content to read (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) that blogs are last on the list.

BUT, over the last few months, I've come across articles about marketing (for authors or not) and one of the suggestions is to blog. So no, blogging is not dead. It just needs to be looked at a different way.

You were right in concentrating on urban fantasy/paranormal romance. And if you add other genres, I don't think it will hurt. It will just make your personal blog a "writers" blog and nothing wrong with that.

Nowadays, people read a blog post and never comment. I no longer expect comments. Mainly, I keep an eye out for 'hits' on my blog. That means people are reading/checking out my blog. Then, maybe, next time they are looking at a book, they'll recognize my name, even if they can't remember from where. Just recognizing as being familiar gets your book a step closer to being sold. To me that's what my blogging is all about.

Oh, by the way, they (yes, those unknown people out in the Internet ether) say two things interest readers (besides content) with it comes to blogs. 1) pictures. 2) shorter lengths. The first is easy for me, but the second, I have to make myself pare it down.

Always love your posts.

SandyG265 said...

As a reader my I like blogs with a variety of authors. The main reason I've stopped reading certain blogs is the lack of new or regular posts.

Liz S. said...

I always enjoy your blog. I enjoy your pictures about places in your books, your art work, your character interviews. I also enjoy your newsletter. Due to time constraints, I don't follow the blogs of many authors who I love to read. And thanks for all your generous giveaways.

Di said...

I follow a number of blogs (mostly about books). If the post catches my attention, I may just read it in my email - I guess you don't get a stat when I do that? If so, I'll try to remember to click over to the blog itself. So little time, so many books, I tend to move thru rather quickly.

Suzanne Johnson said...

@Carla---I absolutely agree. Blogs still have value, but study after study shows that frequency matters. So we all need to hit our blog dates (I know I've missed a few) and also promote them a bit as well. I need to work on those shorter lengths, too! I also look at hits more than comments, although I love comments. Hits and time-on-site are the keys. And thanks for commenting!

@Sandy. I think a variety of viewpoints is great too, so I hope we can get this one revived. Our chapter has a lot of really great authors from all genres.

@Liz. Thank you! I have some new character-related stuff planned that I think will be fun. And it is hard, time-wise, to follow a lot of blogs--I appreciate you following mine!

@Di. I think reading it in email is great--I do that myself. No, it doesn't show up on the "counter" as a hit, but if you follow a blog we know it shows up in your email inbox. So keep reading! (And we all scan, believe me!)

miki said...

Hum it's true time is sometimes lacking to comment or visit all blogs we follow. Personnaly i don't need to see a post each day as long as it's regular ( even 1 per week can be eniugh if it's not like mine a surprise when it show up^^)

i love to see your post about the places in the books, tibits about characters or art creations, i'm grateful for the giveawausof course. i think that as long as you do it like you like, speak from your heart it will keep being very interesting

as for blog with multiples authors like this one i enjoy to see the different point of view and discussions, learning about each author as well.. add more authors? perhaps but dedicated one then

Roger Simmons said...

I visit 13 blog sites daily. By doing that I find new authors of interest and by using sidebars visit other places. I enjoy most the missing book text and snippets of upcoming books. Using links I always follow the authors. I do find myself getting irritated when blogs don't get updated regularly. For example Carolyn Crane hasn't bloged in a long time, I still visit her site as she has an excellent sidebar. I don't care for weekly recaps or on my bookshelf stuff. I really enjoy reading about and discovering new authors.

Mary Preston said...

I like to read book recommendations, author interviews & reviews.

Ashfa said...

I love reading your blog- the character interviews are awesome! Though I usually read it in my inbox.
And I prefer blogs with multiple authors.

bn100 said...

new books

BookLady said...

I enjoy reading blogs that give background information on the author's books, character interviews, book snippets, and personal info about the author. Daily posts are not necessary, but I do like to see a new post at least once a week.

Lil said...

I am a reader and do follow blogs. I may be following because I enjoy a specific author but that is also why I am interested when the author has invited other authors to blog about upcoming releases, etc. Reading about the background to stories, characters or the author is fun for me.

jmcgaugh said...

As a general rule, I like book excerpts and reviews in my blogs; of course giveaways are a great draw, but they aren't the only thing I pay attention to. When it's an author's blog, I also like it to have personal notes from the author and information about the author's books. Also, I often enjoy reading about the process of writing.

Afra said...

I generally follow blogs for the reviews and an author;s blog for book excerpts and other author interviews. :)

CS said...

I follow a lot of blogs using a reader, this way I can check them 2-3 times a month and see what's happening. If something sounds good I then go to the blog / site to read more. While I like giveaways, it's the reviews and what the author is working on that I look for. I've found some great new books from the reviews. I also love excerpts -- if it's good I try to remember that I want to read that book.

Suzanne Johnson said...

Yay--thanks to EVERYONE for the comments. I've been making notes and you gave us a lot of terrific feedback.

And congratulations to MARY PRESTON, who won the giveaway. Mary, I've sent you an email.