Talking Shop: Taking Matters Into Your Own Hands, Part 2 - Blogs
This week we're continuing our look at steps to increase your visibility and presence--your author "brand"--on social media in cyberspace. Last time we discussed the two most common social media platforms, Twitter and Facebook. Today, it's time to discuss:
Do you have to have a blog? Possibly not, but the benefits of having one far outweigh the "costs". Since most blog sites are free, you're mostly talking about time, effort, and upkeep when it comes to your investment in the blog.
Why is a blog important for indie authors?
1. It Provides the Best Opportunity To Market Your "Brand"
Short of a personal website (a subject
we'll discuss in a later post), your blog is one of the best places to
design and publish images, content, and material that is uniquely you,
for readers to get a sense of your "style". Starting with the actual
appearance of your blog, you're already speaking to your readers about
the sort of author you are:
Here you see a couple of basic blog templates available on some of the free blog sites like this one, Blogger. These basic layouts aren't exactly custom, but if you're just starting out or if you prefer a level of simplicity, they can be great.
The way your blog looks can say a lot about you as a writer. The first template here, My Notebook, might belong to a very studious, organized writer, who wants her writing space to show off a sense of contemporary business savvy and dedicated work. She's a very "professional" writer and her content will likely involve articles on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, perhaps samples of how to query agents or publishers, announcements of the industry, and so on.
The second example might belong to a more fanciful author, and she might use her blog to post samples of poetry, inspirational quotes, artwork or short pieces of writing that move her, or that she hopes will move her readers. Visitors to her blog will quickly see that she is an artistic soul.
The third example, you might notice, is the template for this blog. For Foreplay and Fangs, I opted to design my own color scheme (black and red, the colors of my Blood and Fire series), and I chose my own image for the background. It's actually one of my own works, amateur but fitting for this medium, and my hope was that it would convey a darker, supernatural feel. In this way, I hope to convey to my readers what my work is all about: dark, otherworldly, and different. My layout isn't the best composition out there, of course, since I'm no professional blog designer, but hopefully it gives off an impression of who I am and the brand I'm marketing, nonetheless.
Basically, your blog is your "home" online. You have the opportunity to fill your home with the sort of furnishings and decor which fit you, and which will convey a sense of the "personal touch" to the work you are marketing.
2. It Allows Readers to Sample Content You Create
If you post regularly on your blog, every article you write is a change for readers to see your writing style and key elements of your work. Now, one regular complaint I hear from authors--and I've definitely said it myself--is that it's difficult to come up with new, relevant content to post on a regular basis.
This was a tough challenge for me, definitely. I started Foreplay and Fangs as a site to post my erotic stories and in the beginning I meant to post something sexy every day. Don't do that to yourself. It's killer. Naturally, I burnt out after a few months, then the blog went unchanged for almost a year before I picked it up and tried again, this time with new content to share beyond my shorts, because by then I'd been picked up by a publisher and knew a bit more about blog tours, blog hops, reviews and guest posts.
It still took me a while to develop what is now our regular programming schedule: Monday posts for discussing the art of writing; Wednesday Writing Challenges; and Friday Free Reads. With this schedule, I've created a threefold demonstration of my brand. Readers know they can find discussions about the craft here, including challenges to modern writing techniques and explorations into the further legitimization of erotic/romantic writing, on Mondays. Here's where the get to know the "Non-fiction" side of me. On Wednesdays I invite readers to participate in a game, complete with prizes, to encourage interaction. On Friday, I share free, sexy content from my notebooks, to give readers a sample of my work, a quick and dirty little story to enjoy, and sometimes sneak peeks or easter eggs from my larger works, like my novels.
I won't say it isn't difficult to keep up with this schedule, even though I've cut back to 3 days a week. Occasionally I have to let the blog go dark (this is usually the case during the month of November, when I participate in National Novel Writing Month). But the structured calendar helps me, personally, to keep myself active and sharing a variety of original content with my readers.
3. When Readers Like What They See, They Are More Likely to Invest in You as an Author
I've heard this referred to as the "little spoons" theory...which is a term I hate, but it works to get the point across.
Go to any ice cream store: Baskin Robbins, ColdStone Creamery, Golden Spoon and Sub-Zero are some of my personal favorites. You sample new flavors on the "little spoons", to get a taste of something you might not be sure about, but you might like it. When you sample something you really dig, that's the flavor (or flavors) you're going to purchase in a greater amount.
The sample content you put on your blog--most notably, samples of your work--are your "little spoons". You offer your readers a taste of your writing, the style and tone, your way with words, and ideally they will find a "flavor" they enjoy. This gives them reason to invest in your brand, and make you a regular stop while surfing the internet. When you release larger works, these readers will already know you serve up a style they like.
This is why it's important to make your blog a place that features your work more than anything else. That isn't to say you can't spruce the place up with other accoutrements here and there, but it's really where you put forward your personal and professional brand for readers. This is where they come to really get to know you, and what you are offering them.
In the future, we'll discuss how to develop content for your blog, to keep you posting and drawing in your audience.