It’s surprising to me how many authors have been convinced that one of the best ways they can build a platform is simply starting a blog. Nobody tells them what to blog about; just blog about something on a regular (usually weekly) basis and if you build it, they will come.
What doesn’t surprise me at all is how many authors I know who have started the whole weekly blogging thing, then petered off as they realize that they will quickly run out of things to talk about if they write solely about themselves, and that most of their normal readers don’t care about another blog full of writing tips.
And so, my question to you authors is this: Are you happy blogging?
If you feel like Ralphie, read on. Today, I’ll show you how to get out of the
bunny suit blogging trap.
Why Do We Blog?
Let’s start at the beginning and figure out why blogging is common advice to authors. Once we understand why you’re supposed to blog, maybe we can find a better solution.
There are two reasons I hear most often for an author to blog. The first is that by creating a lot of great content, you make it possible for more people to find your website through many different Google search terms, and then those people will want to buy your books.
That reason isn’t especially good when you’re a fiction author. Think about the last time you picked up a new novel because of a Google search that led you to an article on an author’s blog, then you discovered this person had written novels, so you bought one and read it. I don’t know about you, but my count on that is zero. (This can work for nonfiction, how-to books, though. I have found maybe three or four great nonfiction books that way.)
The second reason you’ll see most often for an author to have a blog is to generate content to send to a mailing list. Regular new content keeps your mailing list engaged so that later on when you have an amazing new book to announce, those people won’t wonder who you are.
That’s a great reason to blog. But then we’re back to square one if you don’t have enough material to come up with a good, engaging weekly blog post. So what can you do instead?
The Solution: An Author Newsletter
Let’s take the great reason to blog (regularly engage your mailing list) and make it easier by turning it into a monthly newsletter. You can still keep the regular engagement going by only mailing once a month. And that lighter schedule frees you up to write more books instead of an endless supply of blog posts.
Sounds great, but what should you put in your newsletter? Here are some elements you can incorporate into your monthly e-mail.
The Elements of a Great Author Newsletter
An update on your current project
Tell your readers about the book you’re working on right now. If you think it’s polished enough to share a little excerpt, include a snippet. If you’re the type of author who knows roughly how long the book will be, you could even give a percentage to indicate how close you are to finishing this draft, such as 40% done.
If you’re in the process of preparing a book for publication, talk about that process. Where’s the project at? Do you have cool cover art you can show off? Got some great comments from pre-readers? Share the buzz!
This section of your newsletter gives your readers a sneak preview of your upcoming book and gets them excited to read it before you even publish it. Once the book is available to purchase and you send out a big announcement, your readers will be eager to get their hands on it.
Highlights from your life as an author
You’re a celebrity to your readers, no matter how small your following is. Everyone likes to know what their favorite celebrity is up to, so take advantage of that and give your readers a little glimpse into your author life.
You can do this by talking about highlights from your life and how that’s helped you write better books. Maybe you went on a great vacation and got an idea for a new novel. (Include a picture of the gorgeous view.) Perhaps you did a book signing and met some of your fans. (Share photos if you can get permission.) Or maybe you just tried a new coffee-like beverage at your favorite writing nook and that’s got you pumped up to write even more. (Yes, you can even put in a picture of your coffee cup.)
Telling your readers about some of these fun little tidbits will help them connect to you and feel like they know who you are you. Remember, we like to think we know our favorite celebrities, even if we never meet them in person.
Feature one of your books
You don’t have to put your books on sale to feature them. Try adding a small section to your author newsletter that highlights one of your books. You could include a tantalizing excerpt, or even just a great review you’ve received (if you have permission from the reviewer to reprint it). Of course, you’ll want to make sure there’s a link to where the readers can buy the book if they don’t already have it.
This section of your newsletter is especially great to include if you’ve published many books. Your readers may not know about everything you’ve written, so highlighting a different title each month can help fill them in about the other great stuff you have out there.
If you’re doing a book signing at your favorite coffee shop, speaking at a local library, reading to the kids at a school, or whatever event you might have, make sure you mention it in your newsletter. Your readers want to know when you’re going to make an appearance.
News of discounts
If you have a book on sale, mention it in your newsletter. You might even start planning your sales to coincide with the day you send out your newsletter e-mail. That way, your sale automatically goes to the people who have already said they care about your books.
What This Might Look Like
I know you’re wondering how you might be able to fit all this into a newsletter, so here are a couple of possible newsletter layouts that I created in MailChimp. These might give you some inspiration.
I found a little progress bar generator with a quick Google search and used that to make a neat visual. You can also see that I’ve also combined the author update into the project update section.
(And you also now know why I don’t write fantasy novels!)
In this example, I’ve replaced the featured book section with a book that’s on sale. The goal is to give only one call-to-action per post. You still might include a cool excerpt with the sale announcement to make it even more compelling.
Does My Big Announcement Have to Fit into My Monthly Newsletter?
Now, once you switch over to mailing out your monthly newsletter, can you still do a big announcement e-mail every once and a while, such as when you have a new book releasing? Of course you can! And because you’ve kept your readers engaged and up-to-date with your monthly e-mails, they will be tuned in for your big releases, rather than wondering who you are when you’re ready to announce that next book.
So what are you waiting for? If you’re not happy blogging, get out of the blogging trap! Pick a date each month to send your newsletter and start spending your time writing books, not blog posts.