Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Author Blogs: Using Your Blog to Market to Your Readers Has Its Issues

Blogging for many authors is a way to communicate to their readers and market their books. However, they are finding that there are some issues. Finding time and interesting content to write about on a regular basis can be a problem.  

This post is a summary of comments from a collection of outstanding, award-winning authors interviewed at the HBS Author’s Spotlight and how they tackle the marketing of their novels and the issues involved.

To date we have conducted over 300 interviews.  (Click on the author’s name to view their complete interview.)

General question

During our interviews I will ask the authors questions about their blogs and what they are trying to do with them. The questions usually follow along these lines.

Do you want to keep readers informed or market your books or provide useful information to other writers or all of the above with your blog? Are there time issues or problems that get in your way?

Marketing to Your Readers

Many authors use their blogs to target their readers and market their novels. Their goal is to provide interesting content and keep their readers informed and coming back for more. They feel that using a blog to maintain an on-line presence is the key to selling their novels. Here is what several of the Spotlight Crew had to say about the approach.

Author Damien Boyd is the author of the The DI Nick Dixon Crime Series.

“I try to keep readers informed and involved. They have been kind enough to read my books and so it’s only fair! It’s also nice for new readers ‘checking me out’ to see a good website and an active Twitter and Facebook presence but it’s more about being available to readers who like to get in touch, as many do.”

Award-winning and USA Today Bestselling Author Susan M. Boyer is the author of the Liz Talbot romantic mystery series.

“Honestly, I feel as though of all the things I do, the blog is the thing that most often gets pushed to the back burner, because there are so many things to be done and a limited amount of time. My first priority has to be the books. That said, my primary goal with the blog is simply to communicate with readers. It’s sort of a postcard from my world.”

Best-Selling Author Helen Hanson writes Mystery & Thrillers and Suspense novels.

“Readers are my focus. They’re the only reason my work hit the Top 100 on Kindle. I love hearing from people who’ve read my work. It’s a total kick. I will write you back if you send something my way.

When I was writing my first novel, 3 LIES, I had no readers, but I wanted to blog. So I wrote whatever I felt like. When I published 3 LIES, being a geek, I decided to do my own ebook formatting. Consequently, I learned and blogged about the process. These were also intended to be my notes to format my next book. You forget this stuff unless you do it routinely. Consequently, a lot of writers found my site. It’s been an interesting experience conversing with them, and they’re writing some amazing stuff, so I kept the formatting series available for other writers.”

Brent Hartinger is the author of The Russel Middlebrook series. The movie version of his novel: Geography Club was released in 2013.

“I suppose it's marketing, but I honestly never think of it like that. Like any good blog, it's a way to express myself.

The bottom line is that these days most authors need to do more than write books. They need a "presence" online, and they need to make themselves available to readers. I know this makes a lot of writers uncomfortable, especially older writers who broke through under the previous system. At first it made me uncomfortable. But I've learned a few things.

First, it's not "me" out there -- it's Public Me. It's a version of me that I think readers of my books would be interested in. I share some, but not everything. I try to stay positive, I try to be interesting. I don't burden people with stuff that's only interesting to me or my partner, and I never ever bitch or complain in public. I get to do what I love for a living! Writing-wise, I have nothing to complain about, especially to my fans.

Second, it's not "work." After all these years, I now know that interacting with readers is actually one of the best parts of being an author. These are your fans, your friends! And whenever it starts to feel like "work," I stop. I move onto something else.

Sometimes it is hard to deal with the Internet -- everyone has an opinion about your work, and they don't hesitate to write about it in the most brutal way possible. Like most authors and artists, I avoid online discussions of my work, pro or con. Criticizing works of art is everyone's right -- I do it too about other books or movies. But not about or for me. It's not something I'm involved in or ever will be.”

Author John Heldt writes Romance and  Historical Fiction novels.

“I created the blog a little over a year ago to promote my published works and update readers on the progress of future projects. On occasion I use it to review books and tell people about my other interests.”

Michael R. Hicks is the Bestselling author of the IN HER NAME Sci-Fi and HARVEST Thriller novels. Mike has also written the The Path To Self-Publishing Success.

“My primary goal is just to have a virtual living room where people can come in and flop down on the sofa for a while and paw through the books scattered on the coffee table. If I was smart, I'd probably put a lot more effort into blogging like John Scalzi does, but I haven't gotten there yet. But I can't complain with 600 or so visits a day on average. I'm sure I sell at least some books through my web site, but it's really just there as a place for folks to go who want to find out more about me and my work.”

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Romance Author Katie Jennings writes the Dryad Quartet series.

“I’m trying to update my blog much more regularly these days by posting things that interest readers. I’m doing a fourteen week blog series about ghosts and ghost hunting to help promote So Fell the Sparrow, which I hope will build up lots of hype for the book. I have no idea how I have time for everything, as I always feel like I’m behind. I have a backlogged list of things to do and it seems there aren’t enough hours in the day!”

Author Brian D. Meeks is the author of the Henry Wood Detective Series.

“If I'm honest, I mostly use my blog as a daily diary of what I'm doing with my books. A couple of years ago the posts were much better. I've been blogging every day since Jan 2, 2010, and the busier I get with writing/publishing, the weaker the daily blog posts get…”

Author Ty Patterson is a Thriller & Suspense and Crime thriller writer.

“I want to make my blog as the starting point for my readers’ journey but I am nowhere near that point.

Currently my blog serves as yet another discovery platform for my books. I also use it to share my writing experiences with other authors.”

Author Michele Shriver is a Mystery & Fantasy Writer. She is noted for her Real Life Women’s Fiction novels.

“I actually just made a lot of changes to the blog and website a few days ago, so this is good timing. I want it to be a place where readers can come and learn a bit about me and about my books, but I enjoy featuring other authors on the blog as well. Lately I've had the chance to feature some new releases of other authors, and also some interesting guest posts. I like to do that because it's a way to keep the blog active even when I may not have much interesting to say or I've been too busy writing on my books to write new blog posts. I'll be blogging quite a bit about my conference coming up. As for time- it's just something else that has to be squeezed in.”

Author Richard Stephenson is the bestselling dystopian author of the New America Series.

“At the risk of sounding greedy, the primary goal of my blog is to drive sales.  I’m sure any author with a blog will agree.  The secondary goal is the satisfaction of helping my fellow indie authors so they won’t have to struggle like I did when I started out.  It also helps that I’m very tech savvy.  Before I started writing, my biggest hobby was a little side business fixing computers for friends, co-workers, and whatever business they sent my way.  Anything computer related comes natural to me so I have been fortunate enough to be proficient at it.”

Author Mike Wells is an American bestselling author including Lust, Money & Murder and Passion, Power & Sin.

“My primary goal is to be a successful writer and entertain my readers as much as possible.  My blog serves that purpose.  The information and tips for other writers is sort of a freebie every now and then I’m inspired to share what I’ve learned and write a post about it. Simple as that.”

Mystery Author Dave Zeltserman is the award-winning author of the Julius Katz mystery series.

 “Small Crimes blog: What I’m trying to do with the blog is connect with my readers, provide some interesting articles, and keep readers’ apprised to new stuff of mine coming out.”

There May Be Issues

Several of the Spotlight Crew had issues with blogging because of the time involved. They wanted to prioritize their work schedule between writing novels, social media and blogging. For some blogging had to take a backseat.
Author Cindy Blackburn is the author of Cue Ball Mysteries and  the Cassie Baxter Mysteries.

“I use my blog—a funny, silly poem posted every Sunday—as a way to tell folks what’s been on my mind that week. It’s my ‘news’ really. Time is a huge issue. Between writing mysteries, keeping up with my blog, twitter, and other social media, I’m almost always working. And even when I’m doing something else, I have my current work in progress and characters in my head, nagging me. Good thing I love my job!”

Best-selling Author Russell Blake is the award-winning author of The JET series, Assassin series and BLACK series.

“I view the blog as a pressure valve, to let off steam, nothing more. I write my blog mainly for other authors, so not a lot of books being sold that way. I have no goal other than to be relevant in any discourse. People will buy my books due to word of mouth, primarily, so all the social media and the rest as anything but a way to interact with readers I view as a waste of time. As to time, if you look at the hours I put in; it’s not hard to find the time if what you do is this, twelve to fifteen hours a day.”

Author Carmen DeSousa is a romantic-suspense and paranormal author of the Southern Suspense Series.

“Ahh…one of my number one questions[time]! The easiest answer: I’m a workaholic, and I love books. I wake up at five a.m. and spend three hours of my day simply blogging and chatting on social networks. I then workout on an elliptical where I am able to read for an hour. After that, I drop my son off at school and then come home and write until I have to pick him up. I try to write two thousand words a day. At night, I edit for other authors, and then right before I go to bed, I read what I wrote for the day. So…I spend about fifteen hours in my book world.”

Author Douglas Dorow is a mystery and thrillers author.

“Managing time is the magic bullet. I have a full-time job in addition to my writing, so I have to prioritize what I work on if I want to get any writing done. Blogging is something I do less frequently. I don’t know if I should do it at all since I do it infrequently, but I like to share things with readers and writers once in a while, so I post something out there once in a while.”

Author Paul Levine is the award-winning, bestselling Mystery & Thrillers author of the JAKE LASSITER and SOLOMON vs. LORD series.

“Well, now that I’m deep into the next novel, my blog has suffered.  When I’m caught up blogging, the novel suffers.  Again, I blog for fun. Yes, I’d like to pop up on search engines with readers looking for “legal thrillers” or “courtroom mysteries,” but on a time/benefit analysis, I’m not sure blogging is great marketing.”

Author Julie Anne Lindsey is the bestselling author of the Honey Creek Books and The Patience Price Mysteries.

“I feel I neglect my blog horribly these days. In the beginning I wrote daily, then three days a week, then once a week….As writing has gone from an aspiration to a deadline situation, I’ve fallen away from the dedicated schedule I began with. I started my blog the year I started writing in the hopes of publication. I thought there was enough to learn that it deserved being chronicled, so I did. I blogged about whatever I learned that week about craft, blogged industry news and contests, my personal rejections and triumphs. It was a sounding board. A place to find friends and share what I had to offer. I also used it to gain followers. Back then my followers were all writers and that was the goal – outreach and documentation.

I’m not sure who visits now, but I use the blog for continued networking, to support and encourage fellow writers and to share news related to my career. I open the blog to any writer who wants to guest post or spotlight their new release and I occasionally blog about an event or something notable in my writing journey, but overall, I’ve fallen slack. It’s tough to juggle it all with real life and meet the deadlines, so family comes first, then friends, then writing and editing.

After that, I update my social media and the blog gets my attention last. Time management is the toughest thing in this life, I think.”

Bestselling Mystery and Suspense Author Robin Mahle is an author of the Redwood Violet suspense series.

“But it is difficult and I’m not nearly as up to speed with the whole blogging thing as some of my colleagues.  I should be posting much more often, but I need to write novels or all the blogging in the world isn’t going to do me a bit of good.  My goal is to simply give readers a glimpse of who I am and tell them a little about my writing process. If they like what they read, maybe they’ll pick up one of my books.  It’s all about building relationships!”

Suspense Author Dale Mayer is a writer of Romantic Suspense, Thrillers and Paranormal Romance. Dale has written several series including the Design series, By Death Series, Family Blood Ties, and Psychic Visions series.

“My blog does touch on the industry and publishing and writing at times, but I’ve cut back on that.  I think there’s too much infighting going on and it’s counter-productive.  As Jeff Bezos [Amazon founder] notes and I just blogged about:  Complaining is not a business strategy.

I do Survival Friday posts every Friday to give readers of my blog important information they can use.

I plan on starting Who Dares Wins Wednesday after Survival Friday runs out in July.  Giving people useful tips for living.”

Author Tracy H. Meyer writes gritty, edgy Young Adult/New Adult fiction and Adult Romance.

“First of all, thank you! I enjoy writing on my blog, though I don’t do it on a schedule.
I write a blog when something comes into my mind that I want to write about. I also contribute to others’ blogs and that’s a really fun way to reach new readers. My daily priority is writing, then social media, then my blog. But if something pops up in my head that I want to blog about, nothing can stop me!”

Author C. J. Peterson is the author of the The Holy Flame Trilogy.

“I’m afraid as far as my blog that gets the least amount of attention from me. Along with the Featured Author page, that is changed out each month. When I post in my actual blog, they tend to be posts that mean something to me. I tend to post only if a thought strikes me, or a new release, or in the last two, it was poetry from my husband’s heart from his time in the military. My main passion in writing is in the books.”

It is All about Blog Content

Some of the authors interviewed on the HBS Author’s Spotlight thought blog content was important in keeping their readers involved. The idea here is to get the readers to keep coming back to the blog.

Author Giacomo Giammatteo writes Mystery and Suspense novels in which many of the scenes are taken from real-life experiences.

“…I love writing about our animals, so many of the blog posts are either about them or incorporate the animals into stories on writing or life in general. I have two blogs: one for my non-fiction website, http://nomistakes.org, where I publish weekly tips on resumes and interviews and such; and the other is my mystery blog and the topics can range from my animals, to drug addiction, to writing, anything. My goal is not to sell books, but more to just let people know who I am.”

Author Garrard Hayes writes Crime, Mystery and Thriller novels.

“Thank you, although I don’t blog as much as I used to. I post my interviews there and write about foreign policy and the Middle East. My blog is part of my website but it appears on my amazon.com author page and on my Goodreads author page automatically, and I post it on Facebook and tweet it. All my social media sites are connected, so people can easily find my website on my Twitter profile and so on. I’m passionate about writing and encouraging others, but also I like to inform people about things that affect all of us, such as the danger of militant Islam and the abuse of human rights.”

Best-selling Author Kathleen Kirkwood (pseudonym for Anita Gordon) is award-winning Romance, Historical Fiction, and Paranormal writer.

“LOL, that's another struggle and I may have to only do it every other week. We'll see. If I'm going to put time into a blog, I want it to have some "meat" to it and be of interest to the reader as well as myself since it takes me awhile to compose them. There are so many interesting facts and tidbits that come up during the writing of a novel, but that never get into it, I'd like to include them in the blog.

It's a sort of a behind-the-scenes look, an ‘author confidential’ if you will (yes, inspired by the Doctor Who Confidentials.) I also love historic recipes and am including foods my characters eat in the pages of the book (and some they don't, but still with an historic connection). I'll be focusing on Viking cooking is several blogs ahead, including Katla's skyr. Meanwhile, next week, I'll dish up some Pönnukökur með þeyttum rjóma, Icelandic Pancakes (think dessert crêpes).”

Author David Lawlor is a Historical Fiction Writer and provides an editing service for other authors.

“They are very important in that they are the only real means I use to tell people about my books. I have found many helpful people on Twitter who have been more than willing to tweet to others about my writing. I also have a blog – historywithatwist.wordpress.com  – which celebrates the bit players of history, the ordinary man or woman who may have done one extraordinary thing. There are many of them out there and their stories can be just as powerful, if not more so, than those larger historic figures. I get to interact with like-minded enthusiasts on the blog and often have stories referred to me from people who follow it.”

Chantel Rhondeau is a Romantic suspense author. Chantel writes the Agents in Love series.

“I used to spend a lot of time blogging. Now, I'm a great cheater, truthfully. Since I know my readers are interested in finding new authors and things to read, I signed up as a tour host for blog tours. Then I'm given ready-made posts, can give my readers new, interesting content, and I don't have to put a ton of work into it.

Now, of course I do try and get in some book reviews and more personal posts, but when I'm in a rush and behind schedule, my blog mostly maintains itself with the blog tour posts.”

Bestselling Author Vickie McKeehan writes romantic suspense.

“I still don’t know why I dragged my feet so long about starting a blog. I love having one now! The only problem with it is coming up with new content.

I’m the first to admit I’m not as good about writing articles as I should be. Writing books takes up most of my days. I salute those other writers like Carolyn Arnold though who can do it all and make it look effortless. Carolyn’s one who does it all.”

Takeaways from Using Your Blog to Market Your Novels

A.    Keep readers informed, involved and interested.
B.     There are time issues involved with blogging on a regular basis.
C.     You must prioritize your work load between writing, social media and blogging.
D.    Interesting content will keep the reader coming back to the blog.
E.     A blog helps you practice the art of writing.

Related posts

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