Part II: How To Write A Successful Blog
In Part II of @RachelintheOC’s OWN (Overview, Writing a Successful Blog, and What you Need to market you blog in Today’s Environment) Series on Blog Writing, she covers the critical components you need to have a successful blog.
1. Increases your readership
2. Get over yourself
3. Primes the pump for purchase
4. Tests your brand
5. Finding reviewers
6. Platform for giveaways, contests, direct mail, etc
People read blogs for lots of different reasons: to find out information, for humor, distraction, good writing, sex, recipes, photography, whatever. What a writer needs to decide is why exactly they want to have a blog. What do you want to say to your readers? Are you sharing your writing? Your own personal stories? Examples of your work? What motivates and inspires you? Intimate, raw details of your life?
Figure out what motivates and inspires you because that will really help you when you sit down to write your posts.
Many bloggers start a blog and have really no idea what to do with it. They ramble. They put up a few pretty pictures. They speak in generalities. Sadly, they get very few visits or comments, become discouraged and that’s the end of that. Sound familiar?
Here’s why (and it’s not rocket science): you need a brand.
I was no different than you. I started my blog back in 2008 with an entirely different name, talking about my kids. My readers were primarily my mom and a few friends. But…I soon discovered my snark factor and that people really reacted to those posts where I let my humor fly. I was like a druggie on comedy crack. I wanted MORE.
So I made some adjustments. Changed my name to RachelintheOC. Started marketing myself on Twitter and yea, Facebook #ack. Point is, I got over myself. I found my funny, what worked for me and my readers, and off I went. That was my brand, baby. Vodka, coffee, men, parenting, and the occasional serious post about lost love – those are my watchwords. People expect that from me.
In fact, I grew so quickly, from a mere 25 or so blog followers to now over 500– and over 5,300 on Twitter–that I’ve just published my very first book, A WALK IN THE SNARK: THE BEST OF RACHELINTHEOC now available for $2.99 on Amazon. #woot My blog hits alone have gone from 80/month in April 2010 to between 200-400/day, with almost 6,000 in January, 2011.
This blog stuff works, folks.
My compadre in crime, author Carolyn McCray, also has a very successful blogger, datingafter40okayhopingtodateafter40….. where she discusses her obsessions with food, the color pink, the hot dude who plays Castle, and also her sometimes hilarious and often poignant realities of dating. She’s worked her blog into an amazing following but more importantly, her Twitter following has grown exponentially, with over 10,000 followers and growing rapidly every day.
So our main advice to you? Eight key points:
- Blog only twice per week. No more, no less. Everyday bloggers, studies have shown, get burned out. Your readers will survive without you. (We swear.) You will be a better writer if you relax and choose your words carefully. Remember, every post is a writing sample. You never know when an editor or publisher will be checking out your site. Do you want it to be on a day when you rushed through a post just to get something up? Um, no.
- Keep your post to no more than 500 words. That’s it. It’s a hard and fast rule, too. (Unless you’re doing a HOW TO like this one. Then you have more freedom.) Why? People who read blogs scan. You’re lucky if you have them for a full minute. If you have more to say, split up your posts because you always want to leave them wanting more.
- Use short sentences, paragraphs, and bullet points. Don’t ramble. People don’t want to go back and reread. See that little red X up there in the right-hand corner? That’s very appealing when people get frustrated. And don’t say “I, I, I” all the time. If you say “You…because” people will subconsciously pay more attention to your words. Solve people’s problems for them and they will come back to you.
- Make it easy for people to RT you. To leave comments. Add an RSS feed. Add widgets to find you on Twitter, Facebook. If you don’t know what any of this is, find out. It’s not that hard, and can make a huge difference in your exposure. And for goodness sakes, add the TweetMe button.
- Blogger, WordPress, or Tumbler? Totally your call. I started with Blogger and have stuck with it. It’s pretty user friendly for beginners. WordPress seems to have better SEO advantages & people love all the plug-ins. Tumbler seems easy & has legions of fans. If you start with one and don’t like it, change it! Nothing is set in stone. My best advice: pick a simple template.
- Interact with your readers. Your readers are on your blog because they want to interact with you. If they follow you on your blog, follow them back (on theirs if they have one, or on Twitter, or Facebook). You need to appreciate the effort they put into you. Reply back to them in the comments section. They are potential readers of your future (or current) book. Take that time.
- Participate in #MentionMonday. So many people STILL don’t know about this blog meme started by Carolyn and it kinda blows me away. On Twitter, use this hashtag: #MM or #MentionMonday; then the title of your blog, a brief blurb about it, a shortened link (ie, bit.ly), and then Plz RT. Other participants will RT you, you then RT them, and it’s a huge party. We all get tons of new readers every week, plus lots of new followers. It’s a major win/win all the way around.
Remember though: this is an opportunity for you to sample your work. This isn’t #WW (Writer Wednesday) or #FF (Follow Friday) where you simple name drop. People are reading your blog here, folks. Put forth your best work for #MentionMonday because you never know who may be reading…
- Edit, edit, then edit again. The most poorly written blogs are the ones that see the least amount of traffic. Especially if you’re a writer (gasp!). I write my blog. Then I read it aloud to myself. Then to someone else. When I publish, I read it again. Then, darn it, I usually find mistakes even after ALL that! But, it’s not too late—thankfully, you can always edit your work in Blogger, at any time because remember—your post is your writing sample. Make it great.
I hope this article has been helpful if you’re considering a blog or have one and are not sure quite what to do with it. The IBC just finished up our first Blog Tour De Force and for those without a blog, well, they were ineligible. One more GREAT reason for you to have an interactive, top-quality blog to help you sell your book!
The results of this first blog tour were just incredible. 12 authors, 12 ebooks, 12 blogs. The enticement was a free Kindle, free ebooks, and gift baskets but the response has been ginormous! Each author got anywhere from 30 to over 175 comments on their day, increased blog and Twitter followers in a major way (we’re still counting), and of course sold more books! We all offered free downloads of our ebooks, so from a sales standpoint the dollar value will prove itself over the course of the next few weeks to months in the marketing and exposure we were able to get from the tour.
On top of all of that, we each got anywhere from 5-30 reviews to add to our sites, so that’s always a credibility benefit to both your book and blog.
We are currently taking applicants for our next Blog Tour de Force in April so if you’re interested, let us know right away! Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to using your blog as a platform for your writing, once your book comes out (like mine just did), you can participate in some amazing promotions that the IBC is planning like our upcoming Bestseller For a Day. What is it? Oh, just where we put every resource, press kit, follower, and social media tool we can come up with behind YOU to move your indie book into the Amazon Top 100! One day, $.99, and it’s all about YOU.
Our first promotion is set up for Valentine’s Day for paranormal romance author Amber Scott’s hot new book Play Fling. We’re offering Amazon gift cards, “Bonus Buy” books, rebates, and more great prizes!
Go to the BSFAD website, read about what it takes to sign up. If you think you’ve got what it takes, we’ll consider you. Next up on February 28 is Carolyn McCray’s religious thriller 30 Pieces of Silver, a Dan Brown-like mystery that keeps you on the edge of your seat. And finally, my book A Walk In The Snark gets its day in the sun on March 8.
We hope you will all support these affordable $.99 downloads and show the traditional publishing world that indies can do it for themselves!
Come visit @RachelintheOC on her blog anytime to see what she’s done with hers or @craftycmc for the secrets to her success. The IBC website has all the deets on Blog Tour de Force and our upcoming hot promo Bestseller For A Day. You don’t want to miss it!
*Just for fun, check out how many time Rachel used “you….because” in a sentence. Ah-ha!*