Blogs: What Are They Good For?

My publisher, Wheatmark, recently has a series of on-line discussions as part of their Author’s Academy discussing blogs and their importance for selling books. Blogs and bloggers have become an essential marketing tool for authors. I’ve been blogging for more than ten years. But, it’s important to distinguish between marketing and book sales. Marketing is about raising awareness about yourself, your ideas, and your book. This should translate into sales, but only if your marketing efforts are tied to the explicit goal of selling books.

Alas, my blogging has had little impact on sales of my fiction books, largely because I haven’t engaged the blogging community very effectively on the substance of my young-adult novels. My blogging for my non-fiction books has been more successful because the commentary and posts have been better targeted.

A friend recently asked me about the effectiveness of blogs, so I thought I would repeat my advice in a blog post here. Feel free to comment or react, because everyone will have different experiences.


In general, for new authors in a genre, I believe a blog that merely promotes the content of your book is not likely to be successful in stimulating sales because it presumes you have an existing audience and people care about your book. For writers starting off, I think the key is to invest in a long-term strategy (say 12 months) of slowly building awareness of your work as an author and, by extension, build an audience for your book. A blog and a web site will be the most effective tools you have for building your audience and readership, but they are *long term* investments and labor intensive. The key is to stick with it and not give up.

 

A blog, unlike a web site, is also an interactive tool. Not only do you need to post on your own blog, you need to interact with other bloggers. And some reader communities are more connected in the new media than others. The sci-fi and fantasy reading communities, for example, are very engaged and plugged in on-line, so blogging and commenting on blogs will be easier and more effective than in my fiction genre of young-adult literature. It’s virtually impossible for me to get directly to my readers (young teenagers), so I have to focus on their parents and teachers. I’ve slowly started to crack into these blogs (with the help of readerviews.com and bloggingauthors.com).

 

To date, few fiction book sales can be traced to my blogging efforts. This is largely because, as I mentioned above, I’ve not positioned myself or this blog strategically for this market. My primary blog Adaptation is successful for just starting out (less than a year), and I’ve received a number of hits and site referrals, but it doesn’t really do much to promote A Warrior’s Soul: The is blog about the business of writing. So, most visitors are writers, not readers. Ergo, I don’t sell young-adult novels through this blog.

 

I’ve toyed with establishing a blog for A Warrior’s Soul, but don’t think I really have the time to make that kind of investment. So, I’m using my web site as a poorman’s substitute. Also, complicating my approach is two books that are in the same genre but completely different in tone, characters, and storylines (one is a pirate themed historical romance targeted toward older teens and the other is a contemporary martial arts action story targeted toward young teans). Thus, I am spread way too thin trying to reach too wide of an audience.

 

So, what’s the bottom line? I think the keys to a successful blog that sells books are:




  • Strategic focus for content;


  • A clear target audience that includes readers;


  • Consistent and high quality content, 4-6 posts per week, that mixes promoting your own work (e.g., good news & reviews) as well as content of more general interest to you audience/readers;


  • A long-term, multiyear focus;


  • Interaction with the similar blogs and bloggers.
If these elements are in place, I think blogs are effective marketing tools and can really help sell books; it’s also just good ol’ marketing adapted to the Internet. 

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