By Anne R. Allen.
This week, Jane Friedman reports some bad news for new novelists who want to go the traditional publishing route. She says fiction markets are increasingly “more competitive and risk-averse due to continued dwindling sales.” And she tells us that agents and publishers are now combing queries looking for “authors who demonstrate they have a vision for their career and the marketing work involved in that career.”
So how can you show “vision” and an aptitude for “marketing work”...before you query?
One way is blogging.
And if you decide to go indie and skip those risk-averse publishers, you’ll need even more vision and marketing skills. In order to sell in any significant numbers, you’ll want to establish your brand before you send your baby out into the marketplace.
So how can you do that?
Yeah, yeah. I know people are telling you blogging is totally over. It’s soooo 2008. You should be, like, Instagramming your summer vacay pix, and doing YouTube videos about your characters’ makeup and fashion tips, not *gasp* writing. Words are so old school.
Funny thing. If you write, you want to reach readers.
Guess what readers do? Yeah. They read. Words. Written words.
All writers need to be on social media these days—and a blog is the only social medium where you’re in control and can truly establish your brand. Your Facebook page’s reach gets more restricted all the time. Twitter can be cacophonous and troll-infested. Google Plus has become Cyber-Siberia. And Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram are all about images.
But you’re a writer. This is your medium. It’s what you do. So if you don’t yet have a blog, do consider it. If you had one and let it die, you might think about resurrecting it (much better for SEO than starting a new one.)
I’m not talking about 3-times a week power-blogging or trying to make a business of it. I’m talking about Slow Blogging. The take-it-easy way of interacting with potential readers and fellow authors that only takes a few hours a week.
Blogging is a Powerful Marketing Tool, but Not for Direct Sales
I’m also not telling you to use blogging to hawk your wares. Blogging is simply a tool for networking and establishing your brand.
Using a blog for nothing but pitching your book is pointless. Most people won’t visit a blog if it’s all “buy my book” all the time. That’s like a TV show that has no content and all ads.
No social medium is about hard sales. Social media is about making friends, networking and letting people know who you are (also known as “building your brand”.)
Once people know you, they’ll be more likely to buy your book than if you throw your title at random strangers.
That’s why blogging can be a powerful marketing tool, even if you’ve been publishing for a while. If readers can get to know you via blogging, they’re much more likely to become true fans who will look for each new book as it comes out.
Blog Tours Are a Lot Cheaper Than IRL Book Tours
I’m amazed at how many new writers still think a book launch involves an expensive party at a local bookstore. Or a big splash (with lots of pricey swag) at a nearby book fair.
Today, a writer’s market is global. And blogging is the best way to reach the most number of readers all over the planet. You can reach more readers with one blogpost than with months of those painfully ill-attended “signings” or those $1000-a-pop book fair booths.
I’m not saying you need to go on an expensive blog tour, either. An informal series of guest posts and interviews with other writer-bloggers in your genre can get your book in front of just as many potential readers.
For the launch of my latest book The Author Blog, I booked a few guest visits to blogs like Fiction University and Romance University and the Insecure Writers’ Support Group. Every one of those posts generated over 50 sales.
Very few writers I know can sell 50 copies at a bookstore signing or reading. Most consider a personal appearance a success if they sell 10 or 12.
Factor in the cost of refreshments, flyers, and renting the venue, and I think you can see why a blog tour works better. (Plus you can do the whole thing in your sweatpants and Crocs.)
The Benefits of Blogging
You don’t even need to have your own blog in order to benefit from blogging. Guest blogging is one of the best ways to 1) get your blogging feet wet. 2) spread the word about your writing. 3) Launch a new title.
But starting your own blog is easier than you think. And it can be absolutely free. A blog at Blogspot.com, Wix, Medium, or WordPress.com costs nothing.
Here are some other reasons for blogging.
- makes a new author visible online and gets a name into search engines.
- allows an author to relate one-on-one with potential readers.
- connects with other authors and publishing professionals.
- puts YOU in the driver’s seat.
- lets you show off your writing chops
- gives you a regular writing venue
- unlike a newsletter, it attracts NEW readers, not just the already-subscribed.
How Blogging Revived my Career
My blog sure has made all the difference in my own career.
A decade ago, my career was over. My publisher had gone under. Agent #5 had dropped me. My freelancing jobs had dried up.
I was bloodying my knuckles on the doors of agents and publishers, invisible to Google.
So I started a blog. And yeah, nobody read it. But traffic started to pick up after the first six months. Then I started to network with helpful people.
Fast forward a few years and miracles started to happen.
- Publishers came to me—I didn’t have to query.
- One of my idols, Ruth Harris, the NYT million-copy seller became my blog partner.
- Another NYT bestseller, Catherine Ryan Hyde., invited me to co-write a book with her
- Writers’ conferences invited me to be a presenter.
- Magazines and anthologies solicited my work.
- High-circulation publications from slick fashion magazines to the American Bar Association Journal contacted me when they wanted an interview, because the first thing that came up in a Google search on various subjects was posts from my blog.
- I was invited to contribute to the Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market
- I now have 12 books in print and two were on the Amazon humor bestseller list for over a year, sometimes outselling my idols, Janet Evanovich and Douglas Adams.
Blogging Can be the Key to Career Success.
And I’m not the only author who’s found blogging the key to career success. Listen to what Nat Russo said after an expensive launch that failed to make any book sales.
“I slashed the number of book ads…and went back to blogging…sales rocketed…they leaped from 3/day to over 70/day, where they’ve remained ever since.”
That’s right. He stopped buying advertising and went back to blogging. That took him from a negative bottom line to making a nice living from his books.
And not only is a blog free, it doesn’t have to take much time. I’ve never blogged more than once a week. A working fiction writer doesn’t need to post as often as the “monetized” blogger. More on this in my blogpost 9 Tips for a Successful Author Blog.
What Authors Most Benefit from Blogging?
Okay, not all authors get the same benefits from a blog.
If you write nonfiction—yes! A blog is going to help your career. A lot. A blog is the quickest way to establish yourself as an authority and draw an audience before you publish. If you’re going the trad. route, a strong blog and social media following is going to be an important part of your book proposal.
For novelists, it depends. Not all fiction writers can turn out nonfiction pieces week after week, and a blog may seem take too much time from your WIP. But even a once a month blog can help establish your brand and get you in touch with your readers and the other authors who can help with your career. It’s also the easiest way to build a mailing list.
If you write for children, you may feel that blogging wouldn’t be all that useful. But blogging can reach parents, teachers and librarians. They’re the people who are most likely to be actually buying the books. Even if you don’t have a blog, plan some guest posts that will reach the adults who buy children’s books. (NOTE: Children’s books are the least likely to succeed as indies, so make sure you’re very good at marketing if you decide to go indie with a kid’s book.)
If you’re wondering what on earth you could blog about, I’ve got some suggestions in my post cleverly titled “What Should an Author Blog About?”
Don’t let Blogging Interfere with your WIP
A whole lot of the advice you read about blogging has nothing to do with author blogging. It’s about business blogging. Business blogging has a lot of rules. And a lot of competition. Plus a lot of people who will shame you if you’re not pushing that puppy 24/7, posting daily, and madly promoting it on social media.
Ignore the noise.
Blogging once a week is fine for an author blog. It establishes you as a professional and allows you to interact with readers. But if you’re in the middle of an inspired writing streak, just post a little message for your followers saying . “Gone Writing. Back Soon.” It also might be nice to leave a small hint about what you’re writing. Your readers do want to know that. But don’t apologize. Just go write.
Your WIP should always come first. It’s why you’re blogging in the first place. And no matter what agents are saying about demanding marketing skills, the #1 thing they’re looking for is a top-notch, tightly written book.
How about you, scriveners? Do you blog? Has it helped your career? Do you find it helps you with networking? How often do you blog? Have you started a blog and let it go dormant? Would you consider restarting if you could ignore the “blogging rules”?
by Anne R. Allen (@annerallen) July 15, 2018
BOOK OF THE WEEK
I’ve talked my publisher into keeping the ebook at $2.99 for the summer!
ARTS AND LETTERS UNCLASSIFIABLES CONTEST Have a piece that doesn’t fit in a genre? Or it’s not quite poetry OR prose? This the contest for you! $8 ENTRY FEE. This contest is for unclassifiable works: works that blur, bend, blend, erase, or obliterate genre and other labels. Works of up to 5,000 words considered. $500 prize. Deadline July 31, 2018.
ORISON BOOKS ANTHOLOGY $15 ENTRY FEE. They’re looking for spiritual/literary poetry, fiction and essays for their next anthology. $500 cash prize as well as publication in The Orison Anthology. Submit up to three poems, one work of fiction or nonfiction up to 8,000 words. Deadline August 1, 2018
UNO PRESS PUBLISHING LAB PRIZE For book-length fiction. Any genre. $18 ENTRY FEE. The University of New Orleans Press is looking for full-length fiction manuscripts, either novels or short story collections, for the fourth annual Publishing Lab Prize. The selected author will receive a $1,000 advance on royalties and a contract to publish their winning manuscript with UNO Press. Deadline August 15, 2018.
Stories That Need to be Told Contest from Tulip Tree press. $20 entry fee.. $1,000 prize for a poem, a short story, or an essay that “tells a story.” Also publication in the anthology, Stories That Need to Be Told. Up to 10,000 words. Categories: Passion, Depth, Humor, Love. Deadline August 26.
Glimmer Train Fiction Open. $3000 prize for a short story. Second prize $1000. Entry fee $21. Any subject or theme. From 3000 to 20,000 words Deadline August 31
13 Imprints of Big 5 publishers who take unagented submissions. From the good people at Authors Publish Magazine.
48 Small Presses looking for children’s books. Collated and vetted by Authors Publish magazine. (Great resource!)